April 21, 2012

SpaceX Highlights Florida Jobs, Investments (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX hopes to develop first-stage tanks for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) adjacent to their launch site at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, bringing nearly 1,000 jobs to the state. Meanwhile, the company has invested at least $10 million in Florida infrastructure, $8 million in local (Space Coast) purchases from over 100 Florida-based suppliers, and $5 million in annual payroll. SpaceX currently projects having 120-420 Florida-based employees by 2015 (based on also bringing Falcon Heavy launches to the Cape. (4/21)

Space Shuttle Will Be Late to New York (Source: New York Times)
On Friday, NASA officials postponed their plans to transport the shuttle prototype Enterprise to Kennedy International Airport on Monday morning because of a forecast of incompatible weather conditions. A NASA spokesman, Michael Curie, said the agency would aim for the next day, when better conditions are expected. Clear skies will also make it easier for the public to witness its arrival in New York. (4/20)

Disabled Envisat Spotted by Another Satellite (Source: Space.com)
A massive European satellite the size of a school bus that has mysteriously stopped communicating with Earth has been spotted by another satellite in orbit. The giant Envisat satellite, which is the world's largest imaging satellite for civilian use, was photographed in stunning detail by a French spacecraft that is also designed to snap high-resolution images of Earth, officials with the European Space Agency (ESA) said Friday.

The photo of Envisat in space reveals that the $2.9 billion spacecraft is intact and that its huge solar array is deployed. Envisat is a huge satellite that weighs about 17,600 pounds. It is about 30 feet long and 16 feet wide, not counting the solar wing. ESA satellite operators lost contact with the 10-year-old Envisat on April 8 and have been trying to revive the spacecraft ever since. (4/20)

Cosmic Ray Origin Still Mysterious (Source: Sky & Telescope)
New results out of Antarctica support the idea that the most energetic of the superspeedy space particles raining down on Earth are not from gamma-ray bursts. The conclusion, reported in the April 19 Nature, has upped the ante on a long-standing mystery in astrophysics. Cosmic rays are relativistic particles (often protons) that appear to come at us from all directions in space.

The lower-energy ones — and that’s only by comparison: the low-energy cosmic rays can have energies corresponding to a proton moving at 43% the speed of light — probably come from places within our galaxy, such as clusters of massive, young stars. Astronomers think the highest-energy ones come from outside the Milky Way. (4/20)

Canadian Bureaucracy and a Joint Study with NASA (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
The Citizen asked the National Research Council a simple question back in March: What’s this joint study that you and NASA are doing on falling snow? The federal department never agreed to an interview. It sent an email instead, with technical details on equipment but without much information on the nature of the project. It never even explained the study’s topic.

Before sending even that modest response, however, it took a small army of staffers — 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen’s request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and “massage” its text. All this for a question about how snow falls. NASA, meanwhile, answered everything in a single phone call. It took about 15 minutes. (4/20)

ESA: Russia Stepping in to Save ExoMars Plan (Source: Flight Global)
Russia is stepping in to save a long-standing European Space Agency plan for a two-legged mission to Mars launching in 2016 and 2018 that had looked to be doomed because of NASA budget problems. The original ExoMars plan was for NASA to provide the Earth-to-Mars transportation for an ESA-built orbiter and descent module demonstrator in 2016 and an ESA-built rover in 2018.

But while the US Congress is willing to provide NASA with $700-800 million for its own - as yet undefined - mission in 2018, no other money is forthcoming from Washington for Mars exploration after NASA's planned 2013 launch of an atmospheric monitor. However, after the ESA's governing council gave the go-ahead for ExoMars in March, the Paris-based agency met Roscosmos this month in Moscow and the two reached agreement for Russia to provide Proton launches for both legs of the mission. ESA and Roscosmos expect to sign a formal agreement before year-end. (4/20)

Pentagon Seeks to Maintain Satellite Export Restrictions (Source: China Daily)
Beijing on Friday said it "firmly opposes" a Pentagon report that supported maintaining tight restrictions on exports of satellites and related equipment to China. The Foreign Ministry said the report slanders China by suggesting that the country achieved space exploration through "successful spying".

"The report recommending the maintenance of restrictions on exports to China, which was a policy formulated more than 20 years ago, does not comply with the consensus reached by leaders of both countries to strengthen bilateral cooperation on space exploration," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement. He expressed the Chinese government's deep disappointment over the US proposal, which was released on Wednesday. (4/20)

U.S. Has Space for Improvement (Source: Courier Press)
Among our presidential candidates, only Newt Gingrich attempted to rekindle enthusiasm in space exploration in the Florida primary but voters would have none of it. The talking heads made fun of his quixotic appeals and said nothing about the fact that President Obama — in his infinite good wisdom — canceled NASA's Constellation program which would have developed a follow-on vehicle to the space shuttle.

I remember in the early years of the shuttle program, the complaint often heard was that we had a vehicle with no destination. Now, with the International Space Station, it appears for some years the U.S. will have a destination with no delivery vehicle. At a time when our children are enamored with the fruits of technology but are unable to excel in science and math, it is so sad they will not have manned space flight as a part of their every day lives.

Editor's Note: While Constellation would indeed have provided a vehicle to ostensibly replace the Space Shuttle, it would not have flown crew until 2017-2019 and would have cost billions of dollars more than planned. NASA's current Commercial Crew program will likely provide that same capability by 2015-2016 at a fraction of the cost of Constellation's Ares-1. Meanwhile, SLS is not much different from Ares-5. So, I believe if Ares-1 was never part of Constellation, we could have avoided a lot of the costs, delays, and political headaches we've had to deal with over the past few years. (4/20)

Wanna Travel to Space? It'll Cost You (Source: FOX Business)
Summer is about to come into view, and along with it, the hordes of luggage-laden minivans heading for the great American vacation. There will be plane flights and train rides, Mount Rushmore visits and Grand Canyon views. It might not be long, though, before we're all considering a type of trip that Clark W. Griswold would never have attempted: a voyage straight up into space to marvel at the Earth from afar and gaze at the stars like never before. Space tourism is expected to "take off" in the next decade, with the FAA predicting it to blossom into a billion-dollar industry in that time.

The Jetsons' concept of every average George and Jane scooting around in private saucers was probably inevitable from the launch of the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. What followed were decades of space-based machismo between Russia and the United States, one incredible moon landing and a bevy of science fiction that almost made space tourism passe. Almost. That all changed in 2001 when Dennis Tito decided he wanted to play Neil Armstrong for a few days -- tagging along on a trip to the International Space Station. Creator of the Wilshire aggregate market index, Tito shelled out $20 million for the privilege of becoming the first space tourist. Click here. (4/20)

Purdue Design Project Tackles Mars Colonization (Source: JC Online)
The next Mayflower packed with pilgrims may be spinning through the galaxy on a one-way mission to Mars. That is how a group of Purdue University students envisions arriving on the Red Planet to establish a 56-person colony for 40 years. Plant-based food may be the only thing to eat at the first galactic Thanksgiving, but senior Bill O'Neill and others agree their 812-page plan is a pretty good shot.

O'Neill and his class of 35 aeronautics and astronautics engineering students presented plans Thursday at the Stewart Center to create this settlement, known as Project Olympus. The room was filled with astro-centric students who peppered O'Neill and three team leaders with challenges and queries. (4/20)

Ohio Editorial: My Space Shuttle Bitterness Lives On (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Am I the only one around here who didn’t give a flying saucer that the space shuttle Discovery was flown around Washington, D.C., earlier this week? I am thrilled everything went smoothly, but I can’t express how thrilling this moment was not. Perhaps my idea of thrilling is different than most. The event was thrilling if you consider a smack to the face or a kick to the rib cage “thrilling.” I don’t. And still think NASA should go fly a kite for not retiring one of its space shuttles here. (4/20)

Krahling Resigns Spaceport America Post (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Doña Ana County Commissioner Scott Krahling resigned this week from a Gov. Susana Martinez-appointed post he held on the governing body for Spaceport America, after Martinez left him off a list of officials who were confirmed earlier this week by a Senate panel. Martinez's office cited concerns over a "general lack of engagement in spaceport activity" as the reason for growing tension leading up to Krahling's resignation.

Still, Krahling said he thought Martinez's office was "caught off guard" by a recent opinion column he submitted to Las Cruces newspapers that criticized the spaceport's plan for visitors facilities. Krahling said he sensed "there was some disappointment with my decision to publicly talk about my feelings toward the project." (4/20)

In Search of an Active Solution for Space Debris (Source: International Security Observer)
The enthusiasm of the international space community was triggered when the Swiss Space Center announced the development of “CleanSpace One”, a satellite equipped with a grappling arm able to track down, grab and pull hazardous space objects, in order for them to disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. Within the next five years the system should be ready to interject its first target. However, despite some studies having already illustrated the technical feasibility of what should be the future commercial space vacuum cleaner, the system raises several concerns from legal, technical and commercial perspectives. Click here. (4/20)

NASA Astronaut to Participate in Space Day with North Carolina Students (Source: NASA)
Space Day activities begin with a hot air balloon launch on Betty Dixon Elementary School at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Throughout the day, students will participate in several hands-on science activities including simulated lunar landings and rocket launches. Astronaut Lee Morin, who flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2002, will speak at an assembly in the gymnasium from 10 to 11 a.m. (4/20)

Seawall Built to Protect Wallops Launch Range (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
Sand and stone will provide better protection for rocket launch pads, as well as Commonwealth of Virginia and Navy facilities located on Virginia's Eastern Shore from the advancing Atlantic Ocean. The construction of a 14-foot-high seawall, as well as a widened beach, at NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility's launch range will help slow erosion along the island that has seen the sea advance approximately 8 to 11 feet per year in recent decades. (4/20)

Does SLS Have a Future (Source: America Space)
At first look, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) looks like the perfect rocket: heavy lifting launch vehicle that promises to be more versatile, powerful, and durable than anything that has preceded it. But there are major threats hanging over the rocket stacking the odds against it ever leaving the ground. Click here. (4/21)

CASIS Plans To Jump-start Space Station Spinoffs with Virtual Marketplace (Source: Space News)
After a rough start, the nonprofit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), selected last year to manage and commercialize non-NASA U.S. projects conducted aboard the international space station, plans to unveil the hub of a far-reaching initiative to match would-be researchers with funding sources and business support, managers of the Florida-based agency said.

CASIS intends to build an online community seeded by ongoing, closed-door meetings with selected companies and organizations not traditionally affiliated with aerospace but whose focuses dovetail with research already under way aboard the orbiting outpost, such as biotechnology.

CASIS’s strategy is to focus on the lowest-hanging fruit on the sizeable tree of space research investments made over the past 10 years by identifying initiatives that overlap with emerging markets on Earth and nurturing selected projects with outside investment, marketing and other business services, including transportation and use of facilities aboard the space station. (4/20)

Up for Bids: Classic Soviet Space Propaganda Posters (Source: WIRED)
Science and communism are inseparable! That is the basic message of this amazing collection of Soviet space propaganda posters that will be auctioned off on Apr. 22. Featuring Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov, the first and second humans to reach space, along with Krushchev, and of course Lenin, these posters glorify the the Soviet Union's technological prowess and importance in the world, and in the universe. Many of the posters focus on the role the workers played in the space race, and the ordinary citizen's duty to feel immensely proud of Mother Russia's accomplishments. Click here. (4/21)

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