May 10, 2012

Unions Unite with Aerospace Industry Against Defense Cuts (Source: Politico)
Labor unions and the aerospace industry are joining to protest defense budget cuts. Thomas Buffenbarger, international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said the cuts would lead to "layoffs that we didn't see even in the depths of the 2008 recession." In a recent op-ed piece, Marion C. Blakey, the president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, wrote, "The damage from these cuts will reach far beyond the defense community. The time clock ticking away toward sequestration must be stopped." (5/10)

Pentagon Chief Slams House Panel for Budget Extras (Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Citing potential threats from Iran and North Korea, the committee added $100 million to study three possible sites for a missile defense system on the East Coast and complete it by the end of 2015. At the same time, the panel voted for additional funds for the West Coast missile defense site that is $30 billion and counting.
Since the mid-1980s, the Pentagon has spent nearly $150 billion on missile defense programs and envisions another $44 billion over the next five years. But it is not looking to construct a facility on the East Coast. (5/10)

Defense Contractors in Huntsville Brace for Cuts (Source: Huntsville Times)
Looming across-the-board defense cuts have Huntsville, Ala., on edge, with defense suppliers there saying they are bracing for possible job cuts. Huntsville is a center for the defense industry, ranking fifth in the nation for receiving military spending. (5/10)

Researchers Find Planet They Can't See (Source: ARS Technica)
TThe Kepler mission has only been taking data for two years. In that time, its rate of discovery has been staggering: over 2,300 planet candidates, with another 61 confirmed planets. Those numbers are even more impressive if you consider that Kepler can only detect planets around a small fraction of the stars that it's observing.

Kepler works by watching for the shadow cast when a planet passes between its host star and the Earth. That means the plane of a planet's orbit has to be aligned so that it passes between us and the star. If the orbital plane is tilted, we won't be able to detect it with this method.

But now, researchers have demonstrated that it's possible to spot a few objects that Kepler can't otherwise see directly. While searching for hints of moons orbiting exoplanets, they found that one of the planets spotted by Kepler was being tugged around by another planet—one that orbited in a slightly different plane, and was otherwise undetectable using this method. (5/10)

SpaceX and Bigelow Join Forces to Offer Crewed Missions to Private Space Station (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace (BA) have agreed to conduct a joint marketing effort focused on international customers. The two companies will offer rides on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, using the Falcon launch vehicle to carry passengers to Bigelow habitats orbiting the earth. The BA 330 is a habitat that will provide roughly 330 cubic meters of usable volume and can support a crew of up to six.

Bigelow Aerospace plans to connect two or more BA 330s in orbit to provide national space agencies, companies, and universities with unparalleled access to the microgravity environment. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will be capable of carrying seven passengers to orbit. With the company’s Falcon family of rockets, SpaceX is working to create the world’s safest human spaceflight system. The companies will kick off their marketing effort in Asia. Representatives from Bigelow and SpaceX will meet with officials in Japan shortly after the next launch of the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. (5/10)

Free-Floating Planets in the Milky Way Outnumber Stars by Factors of Thousands (Source: Springer)
A few hundred thousand billion free-floating life-bearing Earth-sized planets may exist in the space between stars in the Milky Way. So argues an international team of scientists led by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham, UK. (5/10)

China Launches New Remote-Sensing Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully launched the remote-sensing satellite Yaogan XIIII Thursday from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the northern province of Shanxi, according to a press release from the center. The satellite was carried into space aboard a Long March 4B carrier rocket which blasted off at 3:06 p.m. Beijing time, according to the center.

The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out surveys on land resources, monitor crop yields and help with natural disaster-reduction and prevention. The Long March 4B carrier rocket was produced by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. Thursday's launch is the 162nd mission of Long-March-series carrier rockets. (5/10)

Spanish Thales Alenia Space Division Wins More U.S. Work (Source: Space News)
Satellite components manufacturer Thales Alenia Space Espana of Spain will provide telemetry, tracking and control, and radio frequency equipment for two commercial satellites under construction by Lockheed Martin and Space Systems/Loral under contracts announced May 10. The contracts, valued at about 4 million euros ($5.2 million) combined, bring to more than 20 million euros the work Thales Alenia Espana is currently undertaking on 10 satellites being built by U.S. manufacturers. The company said this current workload makes it Spain’s biggest exporter of space products to the United States. (5/10)

CASIS Expects To Send First Payloads to ISS by Early 2013 (Source: Space News)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which was selected by NASA last year to manage nonagency science aboard the international space station (ISS), could send up its first payloads by early 2013, CASIS officials said. CASIS has received several unsolicited proposals for Earth-observation and technology demonstration experiments that CASIS spokesman Bobby Block said are candidates for the earliest flight opportunities. (5/10)

ATK's Liberty Rocket Targets 2015 Debut (Source: BBC)
The industrial team that aims to make an astronaut launcher by marrying parts of the US space shuttle and Europe's Ariane rocket says it now has a complete system. Known as Liberty, the launcher would be sold to NASA to take its crews to the International Space Station (ISS). Utah-based Alliant Techsystems (ATK), whose side boosters got the shuttle off the pad, is leading the project. The company expects Liberty to launch on its first manned mission in 2015. (5/10)

Vesta is a Baby Planet, Not an Asteroid (Source: Discovery)
Vesta, the second largest object in the main asteroid belt, has an iron core, a varied surface, layers of rock and possibly a magnetic field -- all signs of a planet in the making, not an asteroid. So concludes an international team of scientists treated to a virtual front row seat at Vesta for the past 10 months, courtesy of NASA's Dawn robotic probe. (5/10)

House Bill Directs NASA to Scrap Commercial Crew Competition (Source: Florid Today)
NASA is being directed to speed up its selection of a company to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. A spending bill the House approved Thursday says NASA needs to make an "immediate" choice of a company for the commercial crew program. Currently, NASA is providing subsidies to four companies vying to develop a rocket to replace the space shuttle. At least two of the companies are planning test flights to the station this year, but a manned mission is not expected until 2017.

The spending measure, which still needs Senate review and approval, was authored by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget. It also covers other federal agencies. The bill would provide about $17 billion to the space agency in fiscal 2013, including money for its top three priorities: a mission to Mars powered by a "heavy-lift" rocket, the launch of a powerful new space telescope, and the commercial crew program. (5/10)

Billionaires Back Ambitious Space Projects (Source: USA Today)
We're now seeing a new generation of (hundred)-millionaires and billionaires who are interested in space," space entrepreneur Diamandis says. "This is smart money investing in one of the largest commercial opportunities ever: going to space to gain resources for the benefit of humanity."

Each venture still faces hurdles. For example, economists and natural resources experts are skeptical that rail cars full of space platinum make sense as a business. "The required loads of space shipping would be unprecedented if asteroid mining is going to operate commercially," says Chi-Jen Yang of Duke University's Center on Global Change.

Historian Roger Launius of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., notes that wealthy adventurers such as Howard Hughes helped pioneer the airline industry in the last century, and longer ago, tycoons such as John Rockefeller and Henry Ford created the oil and auto industries, respectively. Diamandis compares today's space tycoons to New World explorers such as Magellan. (5/10)

Flag Flown to Moon: Start the Bidding (Source: America Space)
An American flag which was flown to the surface of the moon and returned aboard Apollo 14 is expected to be one of the most sought-after items at this weekend’s Space Exploration Signature Auction being conducted by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas.

The American flag has been part of the personal collection of Mission Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell, who also has signed and certified the small cloth flag. It was carried aboard the lunar module Antares to the surface of the moon on February 5, 1971, where it remained for nearly a day and a half. Apollo 14 was the third successful lunar landing mission and is notable for mission commander Alan Shepard hitting the first golf ball outside of Earth. (5/10)

Dream Chaser Test Plan Outlined by Sierra Nevada (Source:
Sierra Nevada Corp., one of the firms vying to build a commercial space taxi for NASA, plans a series of automated and piloted atmospheric flight tests of its lifting body Dream Chaser spacecraft beginning this summer, ultimately leading to an orbital demonstration mission in 2016, according to company managers.

The flight tests will initially prove the Dream Chaser's aerodynamic qualities using an engineering article being outfitted at Sierra Nevada's space campus in Louisville, Colo. Using a combination of public and private funding, Sierra Nevada is developing the Dream Chaser to carry up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station and back to Earth. NASA has promised the company $125 million so far, with the bulk of the money already awarded to Sierra Nevada upon completion of predetermined development milestones. (5/10)

ATK Adds Crew Capsule to Liberty Rocket Proposal (Source:
Joining a growing list of aerospace companies competing to build a commercial crew taxi for NASA, rocket contractor ATK announced Wednesday it could launch astronauts into orbit by 2015 aboard the firm's Liberty rocket and a composite module derived from existing programs.

The spacecraft would be made of a lightweight composite shell developed by ATK in partnership with NASA's Langley Research Center beginning in 2007. ATK and Langley built a composite pressure vessel as an alternative to the Orion spacecraft's aluminum-lithium structure.

Lockheed Martin, Orion's prime contractor, picked a traditional metallic shell for the craft, which the space agency is developing to fly astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit. But the composite structure picked by ATK for its commercial crew proposal has approximately the same shape as the Orion spacecraft. (5/10)

Paralyzed Former Wrestler Lands a NASA Internship (Houston Chronicle)
This isn’t really a sports story per se, but it is worth sharing. Hill City (population 927) is a tiny South Dakota town with a big heart. Recently, the community has been rallying around one of its residents, a paralyzed former high school wrestler, holding fundraisers to help him travel to Houston. Dusty Swanson was a 15-year-old Hill City High sophomore when he suffered a spinal injury at a wrestling match in Fort Pierre. He lost the use of his legs and has only partial use of his arms. (5/10)

Law Student Wins Seattle Space Flight Contest (Source: KING5)
The University of Arizona law student, Gregory Schneider, won the Space Needle's "Space Race," winning a trip into the beyond. Schneider was the finalist whittled down out of 50,000 people who entered. Famed NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the the second man in history to walk on the moon, made the big announcement Wednesday. (5/10)

Japanese Astronomy Professor Found Murdered in Chile (Source: Mainichi)
A 58-year-old Japanese professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan was found collapsed Monday outside his apartment in the Chilean capital of Santiago and later confirmed dead in the hospital, NAOJ said Tuesday. Local police told Kyodo News they have determined that Koichiro Morita was murdered. Investigators are probing whether Morita fell victim to a robbery or was deliberately targeted in an attack among other possibilities. (5/10)

What Will Become of America's Space Program? (Source: Patriot Post)
It is hard to be proud of a space program whose astronauts have to hitch rides into orbit with other countries. The Obama administration isn't getting hung up on national pride, though. The president has consistently reduced NASA's budget each year he has been in office. He also cancelled the Constellation project to replace the Space Shuttle, putting off indefinitely America's return to the Moon and a manned trip to Mars.

It is reasonable to assume such grand projects would have to be scaled back in the current economic climate, but it's not as if budget cutting at NASA will fix the government's fiscal woes. The space agency's funding as a share of the total federal budget in 2012 is one half of one percent, its lowest level since 1959. NASA is hardly the reason this country suffers trillion-dollar deficits. The president's 2009 stimulus package alone would have funded the space agency at current levels for 43 years.

Obama calls for improving our economy through investment in technology, yet he ignores the contribution America's space program has made in this realm for half a century. NASA has a long history of working closely with the private sector to translate its accomplishments into products and services for civilian use. The agency counts over 1,700 spinoff applications currently in use in the manufacturing, communications, and medical industries. This has been a far more economical and productive investment in the economy than enormous stimulus packages and green energy fiascos. (5/10)

Republican Space Socialism Update (Source: Open Market)
Last time we checked in on this topic, House Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) was decrying the wastefulness of competition. Well, he’s still at it. A couple weeks ago, the draft report language for the appropriations bill that includes NASA demanded both a reduction in that pesky competition and a return to the traditional acquisition process, rather than the cooperative use of Space Act Agreements that involves private investment. Click here. (5/10)

Viet Nam to Launch Second Satellite (Source: Viet Nam News)
A satellite monitoring station at Que Duong Satellite Information Centre in Ha Noi's Hoai Duc District. The nation's second satellite will be sent into orbit on May 16.— VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hung HA NOI — Viet Nam will send its second satellite into orbit on May 16, said Bui Quoc Viet, director of the Viet Nam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) information center.

According to its investor, VNPT, after the first one, VINASAT-1, launched in 2008, VINASAT-2 is to promote Viet Nam's telecommunications market to meet the requirements of clients, maintain orbital positions and build upon existing VINASAT-1 infrastructure, which is running out of its capacity. (5/10)

Soyuz Taking Shape at French Guiana for Dual Galileo Launch (Source: GPS World)
The launcher for Arianespace’s next Soyuz mission from the Spaceport in French Guiana is completing its initial checkout for a flight in the second half of 2012, which will carry another two spacecraft for Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation constellation, according to Arianespace. During activity at the Spaceport’s Soyuz Launcher Integration Building — known by its Russian “MIK” designation — the vehicle’s four first-stage strap-on boosters have been mated with the Block A core second stage, followed by integration of the Block I third stage. (5/10)

ESA Declares Flagship Envisat Observing Satellite Lost (Source:
The European Space Agency on Wednesday declared the Envisat environmental satellite lost one month after the bus-sized craft unexpectedly stopped communicating 10 years after its launch. Controllers repeatedly attempted regaining communications with the satellite since it went silent April 8, but Envisat never responded. ESA officials said they will continue trying to send commands to Envisat until July. (5/10)

China Increases the Pace with Long March 4B Spy Satellite Launch (Source:
Four days after the launch of Tianhui-1B mapping satellite, China has launched a new optical remote sensing satellite on May 10, 2012 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch of Yaogan Weixing-14 (YG-14) satellite took place at 07:06UTC using a Long March 4B (Chang Zheng-4B) launch vehicle from the LC9 launch complex. (5/10)

CASIS Aims to Showcase Uses of ISS (Source: Florida Today)
The International Space Station’s National Lab could serve as a platform for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to test new drugs and better treatments for conditions like bone loss, scientists advising the lab’s nonprofit manager said Tuesday. But the Brevard County-based Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, says there’s still much work to be done to raise awareness about the lab’s existence and potential commercial benefits, and no guarantee of medical breakthroughs. (5/10)

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