April 9, 2012

I, Robot (Source: Space Review)
When people think of the term "robot", their mental picture may be far different from the spacecraft roving on the surface of Mars or exploring elsewhere in the solar system. Dan Lester argues that "robot" can mean something else entirely: telepresence devices that humans can control to more effectively and affordably explore other worlds. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2061/1 to view the article. (4/9)

Patience, Perseverance, and Other Lessons for Spaceports (Source: Space Review)
Despite the delays and other challenges facing the commercial spaceflight industry, more states and other entities are proposing to develop commercial spaceports in the US and elsewhere. Jeff Foust discusses what those spaceport developers should be prepared for based on the experience of those who have, or are still trying, to build their own. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2060/1 to view the article. (4/9)

Shattered Glass (Source: Space Review)
Did the US Air Force really learn about debris from a fallen spysat from a English farmer in a pub? Dwayne Day revisits an old tale thanks to newly-declassified information and finds a different story. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2059/1 to view the article. (4/9)

Staking a Claim on the Moon (Source: Space Review)
Conventional wisdom indicates that it's not possible for private entities to claim property on the Moon or other celestial bodies under current treaties. Jeff Foust reports on one proposal that claims to have found a loophole that makes private property rights feasible on other worlds. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2058/1 to view the article. (4/9)

Minuteman Launch From Vandenberg Scrubbed (Source: Launch Alert)
The Minuteman III launch scheduled for next week from Vandenberg AFB has been scrubbed. The next Vandenberg AFB missile launch is a Minuteman III test on May 16. The Defense Department may release some details about the launch a few days in advance. It is not known if the April and May Minuteman launches are in fact the same mission. (4/9)

Space Shuttle Discovery to Fly Over Washington Metro Area April 17 (Source: NASA)
NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with space shuttle Discovery mounted atop will fly approximately 1,500 feet above various parts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on Tuesday, April 17. The flight, in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, is scheduled to occur between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT. NASA Television and the agency's web site will provide live coverage. (4/9)

FAA To Consider SpaceX Spaceport in Texas (Source: SpaceRef)
"This Notice provides information to Federal, State, and local agencies, Native American tribes, and other interested persons regarding the FAA's intent to prepare an EIS for Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX's) proposal to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical launch vehicles from a private site located in Cameron County, Texas. Under the Proposed Action, SpaceX proposes to construct a vertical launch area and a control center area to support up to 12 commercial launches per year. The vehicles to be launched include the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy (up to two per year), and a variety of smaller reusable suborbital launch vehicles." Click here. (4/9)

Details Emerge on SpaceX’s Proposed Texas Launch Site (Source: Space News)
Details about a launch facility SpaceX is considering building in Texas emerged April 9 in an FAA document detailing an environmental review that must precede construction. The proposed launch site would be used “to launch orbital and suborbital launch vehicles from a private site in Cameron County in southern Texas,” according to the FAA’s notice of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. All launches from the proposed spaceport would fly east over the Gulf of Mexico, the document said.

The proposed facility would be built to handle up to 12 commercial launches a year and would support SpaceX’s Falcon 9 medium rocket and the company’s planned Falcon Heavy launcher for which SpaceX has no paying customers. Falcon 9 launches from the proposed facility would include launches of the Dragon space capsule, which SpaceX plans to begin launching this year from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, to fly cargo to the international space station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. (4/9)

New ISRO Center to Control Spy Satellite Launch (Source: IANs)
The Indian rocket that will carry the 1,850 kg indigenous surveillance satellite - Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1) - to the skies this month will be controlled by the new mission control center at Sriharikota, said a senior official of Indian space agency ISRO. "The second mission control center was inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil this January. The forthcoming rocket launch would be controlled and monitored from the new mission control center. The rocket will fly off the first launch pad," S. Satish said. (4/9)

Hawaii Students Creat CubeSat, Earn NASA Grant (Source: KITV)
"We actually physically get to build and make something, and now we get to launch it into space. It's pretty mind blowing actually," said UH student Andy Morishita. It's a project that's been two years in the making and included thousands of hours of volunteer work. Now, a team of University of Hawaii college students is stunning the world with its almost-ready-to-launch cube satellite. "The name of satellite is 'Hooponopono' and it means to make right," said Morishita. (4/9)

North Korea and Iran Poised For High Stakes Rocket Launch (Source: America Space)
North Korea’s planned April 12 space launch of a Unha-3/Taep’o-dong-2 (TD-2) ballistic missile is as important to Iran as it is to North Korea. The flight takes place with several new U. S. missile defense and eavesdropping spacecraft operational that were not in place when the last major North Korean launch took place in 2009. This large new intelligence armada in space, combined with high quality Japanese satellites, will make this flight the most heavily monitored North Korean test in history, with additional surveillance from air and sea assets. Both North Korea and Iran are cooperating on the Unha-3 class and larger ICBM developments that will come under increased scrutiny given the especially large rocket servicing tower discovered at the new “West Sea Coast Launch Site” just revealed publicly. (4/9)

Interview With SpaceX Safety Panel Member Ed Lu (Source: America Space)
SpaceX has recently announced the formation of an independent safety advisory panel. The company has several space initiatives underway besides the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS contract that the firm has with NASA. Several aerospace experts have been gathered to form an all-star team to review SpaceX’s spacecraft, launch vehicles and procedures. The panel includes former shuttle astronauts Mark Kelly, Leroy Chiao, Ed Lu, G. Scott Hubbard and Richard T. Jennings.

AmericaSpace caught up with former NASA astronaut Ed Lu and asked him about his role in the advisory panel and why he decided to join the team. Lu flew into space three times. His first flight was on space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-84 mission in 1997, his second, STS-106, also on Atlantis, took place in 2000. Lu flew into space for the last time on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with the Soyuz TMA-2 flight. Lu was then a member of the Expedition 7 crew where he served as the expedition’s flight engineer. Click here. (4/9)

Khrunichev DG: Inaugural Angara Launches on Schedule for 2013 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Russia’s new Angara rocket family, which began development after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will finally fly next year after two decades of effort. Providing, of course, that work is completed in time on the rocket’s launch facility and other ground infrastructure at Plesetsk. That’s the word from Vladimir Nesterov, the Director General of the Khrunichev company that is building Angara.

Angara is a new modular family of environmentally friendly boosters designed to replace a number of existing rockets, some of which are built outside of Russia. There are four Angara variants ranging from small to heavy lift. Click here. (4/9)

Mojave Spaceport Chief Dislikes Wind Turbine Beacons (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Stu Witt, who is the Mojave Air and Space Port general manager, is trying to do something about the thousands of red blinking lights that are installed atop wind turbines that cover the mountains between Mojave and Tehachapi. The safety beacons, designed to warn pilots about the location of the massive power generators, can be seen from dozens of miles away. Witt says they are too bright and bother both pilots who use the airport and nearby residents who have to deal with the blinking red lights shining into their homes all night.

Witt brought one of the lights into this week’s meeting of the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors, which oversees the airport. He turned the device on, causing red spots in the eyes of attendees who failed to heed his repeated warnings not to look directly at the light. (4/9)

Editorial: Spaceport America Runway Extension Must Not Stop Visitor Center (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America is going to extend its 10,000-foot runway with a 2,000-foot addition at a cost of $7 million. The extension is needed to handle the Virgin Galactic plane-spacecraft vehicle. Safety is and must be a paramount concern in the fledgling commercial space-flight industry. Having a runway long enough to safely handle the space vehicles is a no-brainer.

But a point worth consideration is where the money is coming from. About $5 million of the $7 million will be taken from the approximately $15 million budget for spaceport visitors' centers, according to spaceport authority board member and Doña Ana County Commissioner Scott Krahling. The immediate concern is that the scope and scale of plans for the visitors centers don't suffer. (4/9)

Space Expeditions Curacao (SXC) Begins Flight Training for Clients (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Beginning on the 12th of March 2012 our first astronaut training missions took place in Soesterberg and Eelde in The Netherlands. We did trainings in the unique Desdemona simulator and in the L-39 Albatross Jet. Click here. (4/9)

NASA Races to Find Tenants for Vacant Shuttle Facilities (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The clock once again is ticking at Kennedy Space Center, but this time the countdown won't end with a space shuttle blasting into orbit. Instead, officials with NASA and the state are racing to find new tenants for several vacant shuttle facilities at KSC before the money to maintain them runs out — which is expected to happen by fall 2013. We have a short window of opportunity," said Joyce Riquelme, head of the center's development office. "We don't want to have a bunch of abandoned facilities sitting around for who knows how long."

The price of failure is significant. With the space-shuttle program ended, NASA either must find someone to lease major buildings — such as the facility where workers repaired shuttle tiles — or abandon them, because the cash-strapped agency lacks the money to demolish them. Besides looking bad, the crumbling buildings would hinder efforts to remake KSC into a modern spaceport, an initiative estimated to cost $2.3 billion during five years.

There has been some success. In October, Boeing agreed to lease one of three shuttle garages — known officially as an Orbiter Processing Facility — to assemble a new space capsule at KSC. The project could employ as many as 550 workers, a major first step in helping KSC recover from the loss of 7,000 shuttle jobs. Click here. (4/9)

May Launch Now Planned for Next Atlas 5 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Given the delays launching the year's first Atlas 5 rocket due to high-altitude winds and scheduling conflicts with a Navy submarine missile test off Cape Canaveral, the next Atlas mission is moving out a week or so as a result. A spokesperson for the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center confirmed the targeted April 27 Launch date will slide into early May. The exact date depends on avoiding another schedule conflict on the Eastern Range at the Cape, which is booked for the planned April 30 blastoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9. That mission has its primary and backup attempts reserved on the Range, pushing the Atlas to May 5. (4/9)

Marathon Mouse Space Mission Boosts Bone Protection (Source: New Scientist)
A group of mice have returned to Earth after the longest mission any animal has endured in space. The mice were floating around for 91 days to test a way to prevent the breakdown of bone. Different types of bone cell either build bone up or break it down. For weight-bearing bones, breakdown cells become more active when there is no impact on the bone, such as in microgravity. "Astronauts experience around 20 to 30 percent bone loss," says Sara Tavella. Astronauts exercise and take calcium supplements to limit damage, but it is very difficult to return the bone to its original state back on Earth, says Tavella.

To examine other options, her team sent six mice up to the International Space Station. Three of the mice were genetically modified to produce extra pleiotrophin (PTN) - a protein involved in bone development. The mice with extra PTN were protected from the breakdown of bone - losing only 3 percent of the volume of their spine compared with a 41.5 percent decrease in the normal mice. (4/9)

Tides Turn Some Habitable Planets Hellish (Source: New Scientist)
Tides evoke the sea, but they may dry out what would otherwise be habitable planets around small stars, making them hostile to life. Rory Barnes and his colleagues calculated what would happen to Earth-like planets orbiting the most common type of star in the galaxy: red dwarfs. These stars are much cooler and fainter than the sun, meaning the habitable zones around them - in which planets can have liquid water on their surface - are much closer in. Any planets orbiting in those zones feel very strong gravitational tugs from the star. (4/9)

Educational Nausea at Brandeis (Source: Spacepirations)
The place - AGSOL - Ashton Graybiel Situational Orientation Lab, at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. A group of adults in a basement have been creating rides for decades. What kind of rides? Think amusement park rides without color or sugar coating. Without sun-light or food stands. In this twilight zone several experts research ways to measure, adapt-to and maybe some day avoid this set of phenomena named motion sickness and spatial disorientation. Click here. (4/8)

KSC's Space Life Sciences Lab Nears Reopening After Flooding (Source: Florida Today)
Nearly two months after a burst pipe sent water gushing through a ceiling and cascading down stairs, causing nearly $5 million in damage, dozens of people are getting ready to return to work in a state-owned lab facility at Kennedy Space Center. “It was quite dramatic,” Steve Bennington, chief scientific officer for Cella Energy, said of the leak at the Space Life Sciences Lab. “You could have taken a kayak down the stairs at one point.”

Building owner Space Florida says 75,000 square feet, or 68 percent of the facility, sustained some degree of damage. Fortunately, it was concentrated in office areas on the second floor and mostly spared laboratories and experiments. The state aerospace development agency paid only a $1,000 deductible, with insurance covering the rest of the estimated $4.6 million in damage. (4/9)

It's Space, Jobs or You're Finished (Source: Florida Today)
I’ll say it again. No presidential candidate deserves your vote without a plan to address the two biggest job killers on the Space Coast: 1) A U.S. space program that laid off thousands of skilled workers and cannot launch astronauts into orbit; and 2) A housing and construction industry still weighed down by underwater mortgages and foreclosures.

We laid down that benchmark in an editorial as the Republican presidential debates got underway last fall. We were sure some challengers and President Barack Obama would avoid those subjects or try to distract with social issues or gas prices. And today, Florida voters seem to share our impatience, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows. They have steadfastly ranked the economy and jobs as the No. 1 and No. 2 positions for presidential candidates. And they appear to have turned against an otherwise decent presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA. The Quinnipiac poll numbers for Florida look much the same as those for Ohio and Pennsylvania, two other battleground states. Click here. (4/3)

Some Investors Frustrated with Virgin's Pace (Source: Express)
With perpetual promotion of his brand, from Virgin Atlantic to Northern Rock, Sir Richard Branson projects himself as the man you can trust. But he has ceased to be a hero to some investors who have paid huge sums to secure bookings on what the entrepreneur boasts will be the first commercial flight into space.

The Virgin Galactic project, which has just notched up its 500th ticket sale to actor Ashton Kutcher, the estranged husband of actress Demi Moore, has taken some £40million in deposits from passengers wanting to fly to the stars (and, hopefully, back). The service was due to start in November 2010 but the company has been unable to give the aspiring space tourists a date for lift-off from the terminal in New Mexico which is being built by the architect Lord Rogers.

But not all of the investors keen to fly to the final frontier on this Star Trek dream are happy with the way they are being treated. Lebanese technology tycoon Bassim Haidar, who paid US$200,000 six years ago for his ticket, is frustrated at Galactic’s reluctance to give a date for the flight. At his home in Surrey multi-millionaire Bassim tells me: “I wanted to be the first Arab in space, so I signed up right away. But I can’t get Branson to say when we will fly. I’m very disappointed in him. He’s not the ‘can-do businessman’ he likes to project to the media. Click here. (4/8)

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