June 1, 2012

Space Center Houston's Full-Size Shuttle Replica to Arrive June 1 (Source: SpaceRef)
Space Center Houston invites you to attend "Shuttlebration Weekend" in honor of the arrival of the full-size Space Shuttle replica, arriving on Friday, June 1 by barge at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). On Sunday, June 3, the replica will make an estimated three-hour trek down NASA Parkway from the Hilton to its permanent home at Space Center Houston. Once on Space Center Houston property, the replica will be welcomed by JSC's prototype planetary rovers for future solar system exploration, local scout troops and marching bands as it is rolled to its location. (6/1)

More Mergers Expected for Google Lunar X Prize Contenders (Source: Space News)
Competition for the Google Lunar X Prize is heating up with the May 30 announcement of the first major acquisition of one team by another and widespread discussion among team leaders of additional mergers. Moon Express Inc., a Google Lunar X Prize team backed by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and space industry veterans, announced May 30 its acquisition of Next Giant Leap LLC of Boulder Colo., one of its leading competitors.

Through the Google Lunar X Prize, the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., plans to award $20 million to the first commercial team to succeed by the end of 2015 in landing a robotic spacecraft on the Moon, sending a vehicle at least 500 meters over the lunar surface and returning high-definition images to Earth. (6/1)

Gallois Hands EADS Reins to Tom Enders (Source: Defense News)
French aerospace executive Louis Gallois handed the reins of EADS over to German Tom Enders at a May 31 meeting marked by the notable absence of shareholder Arnaud Lagardere. Gallois received warm applause as he thanked fellow EADS directors and personnel before taking questions from shareholders who were present at a general assembly in Amsterdam.

Enders, who has been CEO of Airbus, EADS’ main division, was named to the parent company’s 11-member board along with Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the European Central Bank. The board was expected to hold a telephone conference during which Lagardere should be named chairman and Enders CEO of EADS. Seven members of the EADS board did not show up for the annual meeting. (6/1)

Adams Statement on the Safe Return of SpaceX's Dragon Capsule (Source: Rep. Adams)
Representative Sandy Adams (R-FL) released the following statement after SpaceX’s private space capsule Dragon returned safely to Earth: “I want to congratulate SpaceX on their leap into the history books today. From the launch of the Dragon capsule atop the Falcon rocket, to the berthing of the first private spacecraft with the International Space Station, the SpaceX team has proven that American ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit knows no limits. With the completion of this demonstration mission, we can once again look forward to American astronauts launching on American rockets built by an American workforce.” (5/31)

EELV Costs Rising to Unsustainable Levels (Source: FISO)
The EELV program was designed to reduce launch costs by 25-50% over heritage Atlas and Delta vehicles, but now it is the most expensive launch system in the world. The estimated average price for a DOD EELV launch has risen from $72 million in 2002 to $420 million in 2012. EELV cost increases are being passed along to NASA in the form of NLS-II contract prices which are 50% higher than in the NLS-I contract. The not-to-exceed price for an Atlas-5 has increased from $125 million to $334 million. Click here. (6/1)

Florida (and KSC) Should Double-Down on SpaceX (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX's recent successes make the company a formidable competitor for future NASA cargo and crew transport, a likely winner of future DOD launch business, and our nation's best hope for re-capturing the commercial satellite launch industry. Emerging competitors like Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada are years behind SpaceX, and ULA remains stuck in a high-price zone geared toward high-value DOD missions.

Given SpaceX's limitations at Launch Complex 40, the company is serious about finding a second East Coast launch site, and Texas or Puerto Rico could be it. Launch Complex 39 (former Space Shuttle) or maybe Launch Complex 36 (former Atlas-2) are Florida's likeliest alternatives. Florida should work with NASA and the Air Force to ensure that SpaceX stays put at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, lest the Cape become relegated to accommodating only overpriced government missions. (6/1)

NSS Congratulates SpaceX, Calls on Congress to Fully Fund Commercial Crew (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Elon Musk and the entire SpaceX team on the Dragon spacecraft's historic mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and its safe return to Earth yesterday. This is a major demonstration of the wisdom of NASA's commercial crew development program. "The successful conclusion of SpaceX's COTS-2/3 missions has demonstrated that the commercial sector is now ready to move forward with increased responsibility for servicing ISS, including the development of crew transport capability," Paul Damphousse said. "If funded and executed correctly, the commercial crew program will end our sole reliance on foreign providers and bring that capability - and the jobs associated with it - back home." (6/1)

Sea Launch Successfully Delivers the Intelsat 19 Spacecraft Into Orbit (Source: Sea Launch)
Sea Launch AG has successfully launched the Intelsat 19 satellite from the Equator on the ocean-based Launch Platform Odyssey, completing its eleventh mission for Intelsat S.A. and marking Sea Launch’s first of three planned missions in 2012. Operators at the Intelsat Launch Control Center acquired the spacecraft’s first signals from orbit shortly after spacecraft separation. All systems performed nominally throughout the launch mission. (6/1)

Ohio Aerospace Day Planned on June 6 (Source: OAAC)
Join the Ohio Aerospace & Aviation Council for a strategic assembly of government, industry and academic leaders to discuss the future of the aerospace and aviation industry in Ohio. Ohio Aerospace Day will be held at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on June 6. Click here for details. (6/1)

JAXA Aims to Set Unmanned Balloon Altitude Record of 55 Kilometers (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will attempt to send an unmanned scientific balloon to a world-record-breaking altitude of around 55 km. The state-backed JAXA will launch the ultrathin balloon from its aerospace research field in Taiki in Hokkaido in September. In 2002, the agency set a world record by sending an earlier type of balloon to an altitude of some 53 km from its launchpad in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. (6/1)

Clouded Forecast for Hurricane Season (Source: New York Times)
Our ability to forecast the weather is in big trouble. Last month, the National Research Council concluded that the nation’s system of Earth-observing satellites is in a state of “precipitous decline” and warned of a “slowing or even reversal of the steady gains in weather forecast accuracy over many years.” This worrisome development puts all of us in harm’s way and should particularly trouble us as the annual six-month hurricane season begins today. (6/1)

Up Close With Enceladus' Magnificent and Strange Plumes (Source: WIRED)
Saturn’s moon Enceladus is a strange place. The cold, tiny moon in the far reaches of the solar system is an unlikely location for liquid water. Yet scientists have not only discovered that Enceladus contains water, it actually shoots magnificent plumes of it out into space. These plumes and their origin remain a major mystery for researchers studying the moon and its environment. Where is the source of their liquid water and what causes them to fire out into space? Click here. (6/1)

Lunabotics Competition Wraps Up at KSC, Alabama University Wins (Source: America Space)
This year’s Lunabotics Mining Competition had a simple, yet accurate motto: “Design it, Build it, Dig it!” This event is held annually among college-aged students from points across the globe. Starting last year, the competition has been held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. The primary objective of this competition – is inspiration. With students in High School and College foregoing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math or “STEM” as it is more commonly referred to. It is hoped that competitions re-engage and retain student interest in these areas. Click here to see the winners. (6/1)

Space Shuttle Enterprise Ready for River Ride to Intrepid Museum in NYC (Source: Collect Space)
Space shuttle Enterprise, NASA's original prototype orbiter, will hit the road — and water — for a Manhattan museum over the next five days after sitting at a New York airport for the past month. The shuttle will arrive by barge at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on Tuesday (June 5), weather permitting, where it is set to go on public display in July. (6/1)

Congrats For Virgin Galactic (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
New Mexico’s Spaceport America congratulated Virgin Galactic on Wednesday for getting its experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration for powered flight of the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, said, “This is another major milestone for Virgin Galactic as they progress toward powered flight testing of their spaceflight system.” (5/31)

Boeing Receives DARPA Airborne Satellite Launch Study Contract (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has been awarded an 18-month study contract from DARPA to evaluate technologies for on-demand small satellite launch systems. Under the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) contract, worth about $4.5 million, Boeing will analyze affordable, aircraft-based satellite launch platforms that can quickly deploy small satellites or payloads of up to 100 pounds into any required orbit. (6/1)

Odd Jobs: Space Travel Agent (Source: Bloomberg)
Craig Curran, an accredited travel agent for Virgin Galactic, the world’s first space tourism business, has sold exactly two tickets since getting the job in early 2011. And one of those tickets was to himself. To be fair, it’s not easy selling $200,000 tickets (with a $20,000 deposit payable up front) for a suborbital day cruise in which the inaugural flight hasn’t even been announced yet. It’s basically selling a promise for something that will probably happen in the vague near future.

But as Curran, 54, prefers to think of it, his customers are “investing in the birth of an industry.” They’re not investors in the literal sense. “They’re not getting shares or a piece of the company,” he clarifies. “But they are trail-blazers. They’ll be among the first 500 civilians to leave the earth’s atmosphere.” Before Curran was picked to join Virgin Galactic’s global sales team—he’s one of only 140 agents worldwide—the 30-year travel agent vet from Rochester, N.Y., had to prove that he has, as Tom Wolfe might say, the right stuff. Click here. (6/1)

Why is China Sending a Woman Into Space? (Source: Space Daily)
"China's first female astronauts have, trained hard and conscientiously, and are now ready to take part in the Shenzhou manned spaceflights. For all astronauts the implementation of a manned spaceflight is our primary duty. They are both now ready to accept selection, by the motherland, and the Chinese people, at any moment." This was according to Major General Fei Junlong, commander of the twenty-one person Chinese astronaut team, speaking in January.

However, the decision to include a woman in next month's Shenzhou 9 crew has surprised and intrigued Western observers. China's manned space program is progressing at a modest pace and the imminent Shenzhou 9 mission will be only the fourth manned flight in nearly nine years. It is an ambitious and complex mission, which will need a well prepared, well trained and courageous crew. China's only female taikonauts, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping only reported to the Astronaut Training Centre in May 2010, two months after being selected.

In contrast, the seven men in the training group have all been preparing for spaceflight since 1998 and were previously fighter pilots, whilst Liu and Wang were plucked from the more sedate world of turbo-prop transports. They are however, both military officers. So, why the apparent urgency to send an inexperienced woman into orbit, on this high profile flight? Click here. (5/31)

Iran's Fajr 1 Delayed... Again (Source: Space Daily)
Fajr 1 was originally mentioned by Iran as "ready to launch" early in August 2010 when an Iranian government minister said the lift off was scheduled for the period Aug 24-30. Then, on Aug 16, came an announcement referring to launch of both Fajr 1 and Rasad (another satellite) by the "end of the current Iranian year", March 20, 2011, and mentioning delays due to testing.

At the start of February 2011, Iran said the launch of both Fajr and Rasad could come in the second week of that month, hinting at a dual launch. When the date came round, a new announcement said "early in the new (Iranian) year" - ie after March. Delays in testing Fajr were again mentioned. At about the same time, some Iranian news sources reported that Fajr had been handed over to the launching agency to go into orbit during April.

April passed and, in May, a further pronouncement said Fajr 1 would be in orbit "by September" but nothing transpired and it simply disappeared from public view. It reappeared ten months later, in February 2012, when a planned launch attempt was again postponed for three months. On May 13, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi was simultaneously quoted by different Iranian news agencies as saying launch would occur both "between May 23 and May 30", and "during June". (5/31)

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