May 16, 2012

NASA Loans Orbiting Telescope to Caltech (Source: Space News)
NASA is lending the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) ultraviolet space telescope to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, which intends to put the 9-year-old spacecraft back into service using private funds. NASA and Caltech on May 14 signed a Space Act Agreement that clears the way for Caltech to take over management and operations of the $150 million space telescope. (5/16)

Adams Qualifies for Run in New District (Source: Rep. Adams)
U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, who's current district includes Kennedy Space Center, turned in over 3,300 petitions from constituents across the four counties she currently represents: Brevard, Orange, Seminole and Volusia, qualifying for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Adams submitted well over the 2,298 petitions required for U.S. House of Representatives candidates, and was the first to qualify by petition in the new Congressional District 7 with a state certified total as of this afternoon of 2,597. (5/16)

Obama’s Florida Campaign Wants Romney to Take a Stand on Space (Source: Space Politics)
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is campaigning in Florida today, which prompted President Obama’s campaign organization in the state to issue a statement calling on Romney to take a position on space policy. “Today, Floridians deserve to know if Mitt Romney agrees with his Republican allies in Congress or if he stands with President Obama in supporting the next era of space exploration,” said Eric Jotkoff, press secretary for Obama for America Florida.

Romney, Jotkoff said in the statement, “has provided unwavering support for the Republican budget plans that would undermine America’s space program and our country’s future as the leader in a new industry. He is seeking advice on space policy from the strongest advocates of a Bush Administration plan that tried to recreate the glories of the past with the technology of the past.” That’s a reference to a January open letter issued by the Romney campaign on space policy, whose signatories include former NASA administrator Mike Griffin.

The Obama campaign statement sought in particular to link Romney to the CJS appropriations bill passed by the House last week that, among other measures, includes report language calling for an immediate downselect to one or two companies for NASA’s commercial crew development program. “Now his allies in Congress are trying to eliminate competition in a nascent private space industry which is driving innovation, moving space exploration forward and creating hundreds of jobs on Florida’s Space Coast. Mitt Romney has said he supports the House Budget,” Jotkoff stated. (5/16)

SpaceX Gets Final Approval for ISS Docking Mission (Source: CFnews13)
SpaceX has taken another big step toward its mission to the International Space Station, set for this weekend. Tuesday, space station managers gave their final approval for the company's Dragon capsule to dock with the orbiting outpost. The capsule is scheduled to launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Saturday morning, at 4:55 a.m. (5/16)

XCOR Awards Suborbital Flight to Prize Winner (Source: XCOR)
XCOR Aerospace has awarded a grand prize winner a trip aboard the Lynx Mark I suborbital launch vehicle. XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson made the announcement at the Spacecraft Technology Expo (STE) in Los Angeles. "About two months ago, we were at an event called the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, where together with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) we gave away a suborbital flight," said XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson. "We had a winner, and we had a backup. Unfortunately our main winner was unable to accept the prize. Our backup winner, Jennifer Brisco, is now the official recipient of the suborbital flight." (5/16)

New Welding Technique Pioneered by NASA Brings Hundreds to Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
Twenty years ago, it was a revolutionary idea for welding metal together. Ten years later, it was critical technology for America's space shuttle. Today, the technology called "friction stir welding" is widely used to join aluminum alloy components - particularly in the transportation field where alloys save weight and weight costs money.

"Anything light that travels - trains, boats, cars, planes," explained Jonathan Martin of The Welding Institute of Cambridge, England. Martin is organizer of an international friction stir welding conference that opened Tuesday at the Von Braun Center. About 250 scientists and engineers from 22 countries will spend the week learning new developments in tool design, modeling and other aspects of the welding technique. (5/16)

Ball Aerospace Submits Solar Electric Propulsion Concept to NASA (Source: Ball)
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has submitted its mission concept study to NASA for demonstrating solar electric propulsion (SEP) technologies in space. Ball Aerospace was one of five companies awarded up to $600,000 by NASA in September 2011, to formulate a mission concept to demonstrate the solar electric propulsion technologies, capabilities, and infrastructure required for sustainable and affordable human presence in space. NASA will use the studies to plan and implement a future flight demonstration mission to test and validate those science technologies and capabilities. (5/16)

New Sierra Nevada Office Will Support Army, NASA, Other Programs (Source:
Sierra Nevada Corporation, Huntsville's newest aerospace resident, may start with only a handful of employees, but their presence has made a splash in the local space and aerospace community. While known locally for their space support efforts, especially development of the DreamChaser orbiter, the new office will support three of SNC's key business areas with customers like NASA, the Army, and Space and Missile Defense Command. At a press conference Tuesday at the Davidson Center marking the opening of the new office, three company executives give an overview of programs that support vital aviation, navigation, and air traffic control functions. (5/16)

ExoMars Wins One-Month Reprieve From ESA (Source: Space News)
The ruling council of the European Space Agency (ESA) on May 16 agreed to keep the long-struggling ExoMars project on life support until June 14, when its supporting nations will be asked to decide to pursue it, an ESA official said. ExoMars, in which Russia replaced NASA as ESA’s main partner, is being designed to send a telecommunications orbiter, two landers and a rover to Mars following launches in 2016 and 2018.

The project is now estimated to cost ESA around 1.2 billion euros ($1.56 billion). ESA governments approved a different-looking ExoMars in 2008 and since then have been unable to commit more than 850 million euros to it — one of the reasons why ESA welcomed a joint mission with NASA. (5/16)

Mojave Spaceport Hires Consultant to Promote California Liability Bill (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The East Kern Airport District (EKAD) has hired a former state senator to support the state's efforts toward legislation that would limit the liability of spacecraft operators if they injury passengers during flights. On Tuesday, the EKAD Board of Directors voted to hire former Sen. Roy Ashburn at a rate of $5,000 per month over six months for consulting services. Ashburn’s main responsibility is to promote an informed consent bill introduced in February by Assemblyman Steve Knight of California’s 36th district. (5/16)

Report Warns That By 2030 Two Earths Will Be Needed To Sustain Our Lifestyles (Source: Huffington Post)
Humans will need two Earths to support our lifestyles by 2030 because we are draining the world’s resources so quickly, a new report has warned. Produced by the World Wildlife Fund, the Zoological Society of London, the Global Footprint Network and the European Space Agency, the 2012 Living Planet Report measures humans’ ecological footprint on the planet. At the moment, the picture is bleak, according to Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International, with resources being drained 50 percent faster than they can be replenished. Click here. (5/16)

President Threatens to Veto House DOD Bill, Space Code of Conduct in Dispute (Source: Space Policy Online)
The White House said yesterday that it would veto the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if it passed Congress in its current form. The House will begin debate on the bill, H.R. 4310, today. One of the provisions to which the White House objects would prohibit the Administration from agreeing to an International Code of Conduct for space activities without the advice and consent of the Senate or unless it is authorized in law. (5/16)

Ariane 5’s Second Launch of 2012 (Source: ESA)
Early Wednesday morning, an Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, JCSAT-13 and Vinasat-2, into their planned transfer orbits. Liftoff of flight VA206, the 62nd Ariane 5 mission, came at 22:13 GMT. The target injection orbit had a perigee altitude of 249.9 km, an apogee altitude at injection of 35 911 km and an inclination of 2°. The satellites were accurately injected into their transfer orbits about 26 minutes and 36 minutes after liftoff, respectively. (5/16)

Does Dark Matter Exist? (Source: New statesman)
The peasants are revolting. Last night the Flamsteed Astronomical Society met at the National Maritime Museum to hear a debate on the existence (or not) of dark matter. In a vote at the end, the audience decided it probably doesn’t exist.

The idea of dark matter has been around since 1933, when a Swiss astronomer called Fritz Zwicky found that centrifugal forces should have been tearing spinning galaxy clusters apart – but weren’t. The answer, he suggested, was that there was extra stuff in there, whose gravitational pull was holding everything together.

Astronomers now believe this stuff makes up around a quarter of the universe, if you take into account all the mass and energy in the cosmos. Ignore the pure energy, and dark matter accounts for 80 per cent of the universe’s mass. Which makes it a little embarrassing that we have never seen any. (5/16)

Here Comes the Sunstorm (Source: Wall Street Journal)
With a peak in the cycle of solar flares approaching, U.S. electricity regulators are weighing their options for protecting the nation's grid from the sun's eruptions—including new equipment standards and retrofits—while keeping a lid on the cost. They are studying the impact of historic sunstorms as far back as 1859 to see if the system needs an upgrade, and encountering a clash of views on how serious the threat is and what should be done about it.

Among the events they are examining is the Canadian power outage of 1989. On March 13 of that year, five major electricity-transmission lines in Quebec went on the fritz. Less than two minutes later, much of the province was in the dark. The cause: A storm of charged particles from the sun had showered Earth, damaging electrical gear as far away as New Jersey and bringing displays of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, as far south as Texas and Florida. (5/16)

Sticking Solar Power Station Where the Sun Shines (Source: BBC)
There's always the Sun. It burns four-million-tons of fuel every second and gives the energy away for free. But while solar power is already generating many megawatts worldwide, the weather and the night tend to spoil things somewhat. Researchers in Scotland are seeking to overcome that. Aerospace engineers at Strathclyde University are working with colleagues in Europe, Japan and the US to stick solar power stations where the Sun shines all the time - in orbit.

A solar satellite would operate far beyond our weather. Microwaves or lasers would then beam the power down to Earth. The man leading the research, Dr Massimiliano Vasile, says one potential application is in disaster areas, where emergency power is needed urgently. He says mobile military units would also benefit. Relatively small laser receivers would make them independent of fuel supply lines. (5/16)

Startup Company Raffles a Ticket to Space (Source: WIRED)
A new startup company’s $10 space posters come with a chance to win a ride on a suborbital space vehicle. Called ”I Dream of Space,” the company is selling 25,000 posters at $10 apiece, the proceeds of which should cover a $200,000 ride on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo or a $95,000 seat on XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx, plus some profit for the company’s founders. No spaceflight company has yet made a commercial flight, and it could be years before they do, but that day is approaching. (5/16)

NASA Intends to Use Delta 4 Upper Stage on Moon Flights (Source:
NASA says Boeing is best equipped to provide two cryogenic upper stages derived from the Delta 4 rocket to power the agency's Orion capsule on a test flight around the moon in 2017 and send astronauts on a voyage to lunar orbit in 2021, according to documents posted on a federal government procurement website.

The space agency issued a sole-source award to Boeing on April 27 for a feasibility study on the compatibility of the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage, or DCSS, with the Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket designed to dispatch astronaut crews on expeditions to the moon, asteroids, Mars, and other deep space destinations.

The $2.4 million contract also covers an evaluation of the upper stage against NASA's human-rating requirements. Boeing will also determine what modifications are needed for the Delta 4 second stage to fly with the Space Launch System. (5/16)

Revving Up the Antimatter Engine (Source: Discovery)
Hope springs eternal for die-hard Star Trek fans that scientists will one day build an actual, working antimatter propulsion engine similar to the one that powers the fictional starship Enterprise. A new paper by a pair of enterprising (get it?) physicists should fan the flames of that fantasy even further. Ronan Keane and Wei-Ming Zhang report that the latest results from their computer simulations indicate that at least one key component of realizing a working antimatter propulsion engine -- highly efficient magnetic nozzles -- should be far more efficient than previously thought. And such nozzles are feasible using today's technologies. Click here. (5/16)

Congress Could Ruin Private Spaceflight Progress (Source: Policymic)
As SpaceX gears up for its planned space launch this week to the International Space Station, Congress is preparing to vote next week on a spending bill that would require NASA to select a private company for the commercial crew program. If passed, Congress would effectively end the innovative competition that has developed between private companies for space travel. Voting for this bill would be a short-sighted attempt to save money and would have dire consequences for private development in space. (5/16)

Japan Enters Commercial Space Race (Source: AFP)
Japan will put a commercial satellite into space on Friday, officials said, in its first foray into the European- and Russian-dominated world of contract launches. The H-IIA rocket, which was developed by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and has been launched 20 times since 2001, will carry a South Korean payload, a JAXA official said.

The satellite, the KOMPSAT-3, was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute of South Korea to carry out earth observation, officials said. The rocket has been operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) since its 2007 privatization, JAXA spokesman Masashi Okada said. Its last six launches were Japanese government-related missions.

“With the success of this commercial launch, we hope to build customers’ trust and get the next order, entering a business dominated by European Ariane and Russian Platon rockets,” said MHI’s Kenichi Nakamura. The South Korean institute paid several billions of yen (tens of millions of dollars), “the cheapest price in an international auction”, the Sankei Shimbun reported, citing the institute. MHI declined to confirm the report. (5/16)

Hundreds in Texas Turn Out for SpaceX Spaceport Hearing (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Hundreds of people turned out Tuesday for a public hearing on SpaceX’s proposal to build a satellite launch site in Cameron County, and virtually all comments from the public showed support for the project. Dozens of people took the microphone and all supported the venture, according to Gilberto Salinas, spokesman for the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation. A few people voiced concerns for wildlife in the area.

The FAA hosted Tuesday hearing to help assess the proposal by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, for a launch pad in Cameron County. The gathering, held at the ITEC Center, attracted an estimated 500 people, all seeking information or wanting to offer comments. The FAA heard from local, county and state officials as well as educators and students — all showing support for space technology making its way to one of the poorest areas in the nation. (5/16)

LightSquared Asks FCC for More Time as It Sticks to Plans (Source: Bloomberg)
LightSquared Inc., the satellite company that filed for bankruptcy after the U.S. said its proposed mobile data network would disrupt navigation gear, is seeking to keep its permits. The business backed by Philip Falcone still intends to deploy a nationwide wireless system, Executive Vice President Jeffrey Carlisle said in a May 10 meeting with Austin Schlick, the Federal Communications Commission’s general counsel, according to a disclosure filing posted today on the agency’s website. The FCC shouldn’t revoke permits as proposed in February, according to the filing. (5/16)

Mojave Air & Space Port Hires Director of Business Development (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mojave Air & Space Port, the world’s premiere civilian flight test center, announced the appointment of Karina Drees to Director of Business Development. In the newly formed role, Drees will provide strategic direction for economic development and marketing initiatives, while working on tenant expansion and retention.

Drees brings more than 12 years of experience in strategy and business development. She has held management positions for growing technology companies ranging in size from startups to large public companies. Most recently, she was a member of the strategy and positioning team for SRA International, a large defense contractor in Fairfax, VA. (5/16)

Norwegian Satellite Component Maker Enjoys Strong Year in 2011 (Source: Space News)
Norwegian satellite-electronics provider Kongsberg Norspace on May 14 reported a 30 percent increase in revenue for 2011 compared to 2010 on the strength of new commercial telecommunications satellite work and said it expects double-digit growth again in 2012. (5/15)

Spacecraft Repair Droids Could Give Satellites Longer Lives (Source:
The ability to breathe new life into an aging satellite using robot mechanics could potentially boost satellite industry efficiency and reduce mission costs, and at least one aerospace firm is forging ahead with plans to do just that. Now, all the company needs is customers. "We're ready to sell, we're ready to build, we're ready to deliver," said Edward Horowitz, ViviSat's chairman of the board. ViviSat is a joint venture of rocket manufacturer Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and aerospace firm U.S. Space.

ViviSat's Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) is being designed to dock to satellites in orbit, and then use its own thrusters to provide propulsion and attitude control. Among other functions, the spacecraft will be able to adjust an older satellite's orbit, rescue fully fueled satellites that may have launched into the wrong location, or move a satellite into a different orbit for a completely new purpose. (5/15)

Saturn's Moons Make Waves in Rings (Source: MSNBC)
This image from NASA's Cassini orbiter shows why Daphnis and Pan are known as "shepherd moons": The gravitational influence of those tiny satellites help keep Saturn's giant rings in line, creating subtle ripples and waves in the process. Five-mile-wide Daphnis, at lower left, makes its circuit around Saturn in the Keeler Gap, an open space in the planet's A ring. As it passes through, it perturbs the particles along both sides of the gap, sculpting the edges. To learn more about Daphnis' influence and watch a movie showing the shepherd at work, check out this Web page from the Cassini mission's imaging team. (5/15)

A New Frontier for Space Travel (Source: LA Times)
SpaceX will soon attempt to launch a craft into orbit and dock it with the International Space Station, a first for a private company. Success could alter how the U.S. runs missions. For the last half-century, space flight has been the domain of the world's superpowers. All that is set to change as soon as Saturday when SpaceX, the private rocket company in Hawthorne, will attempt to launch a spaceship with cargo into orbit and three days later dock it with the International Space Station.

If successful, the mission could mean a major shift in the way the U.S. government handles space exploration. Instead of keeping space travel a closely guarded government function, NASA has already begun hiring privately funded start-up companies for spacecraft development and is moving toward eventually outsourcing NASA space missions. (5/15)

NASA Will Not Fly Next Mars Rover Until 2020 (Source: Aviation Week)
It all comes down to Curiosity. The big nuclear-powered Mars rover is NASA's last chance to drive scientific instruments around on the Martian surface in this decade. After that, it may be 2020 before the U.S. can afford to launch another rover to the red planet. As recently as last fall, NASA had plans for launching a mission to bring back Mars samples to analyze on Earth as early as 2022. Now the expert team set up to develop new options for a downsized Mars program is working on the assumption that there will be surface samples delivered to orbit around Mars no later than 2033. (5/15)

Senator Grassley Questions Google Flights At NASA Airfield (Source: Dow Jones)
A senior Republican senator is questioning Google Inc.'s (GOOG) use of a federal airfield near its corporate headquarters. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, in a letter dated Monday, said his office had received "troubling allegations" regarding Google's use of Moffett Field, which NASA operates near Mountain View, Calif.

The letter, addressed to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, alleged that Google houses a variety of airplanes at Moffett and uses them to fly all over the world, but rarely for science missions. Grassley also said his office had received allegations that Google was able to purchase jet fuel from the government at a discounted price.

Grassley also asked for details about a 2008 Google lease agreement with NASA that gave the company use of 42 acres of property at NASA'sAmes Research Center, where the airfield is located. That deal gave Google the right to construct more than one million square feet of offices and research-and-development facilities. Representatives of NASA, Google and Grassley didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. (5/15)

Curacao Spaceport Hires Mojave Director as Consultant (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Space Expedition Curacao has hired Mojave Air & Space Port CEO and General Manager Stu Witt to advise the Dutch company on spaceport operations and procedures. During a meeting on Tuesday, the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors approved moving ahead with an agreement under which Witt would advise the company, which plans to begin operating XCOR’s Lynx suborbital vehicle out of the Caribbean island of Curacao in 2014.

Witt said his duties would be to serve on an advisory board and to attended a couple of meetings per year. Witt would be paid for his time and reimbursed for expenses, with money flowing to EKAD and not to him. Witt revealed that in addition to Curacao, SXC is looking to fly Lynx vehicles from the Netherlands and possibly from Mojave as well. The company also is in negotiations with other possible locations, he added. (5/15)

ATK Video Promotes Liberty Launch System (Source: ATK)
Click here to see a promotional video developed by ATK for their Liberty launch system. Liberty, which includes collaborations with Astrium and Lockheed Martin, would launch from Kennedy Space Center using infrastructure developed for the Space Shuttle. (5/15)

Innovative Space Propulsion Systems Clears Flight Demonstration Hurdle (Source: Hobby Spacec)
Innovative Space Propulsion Systems (ISPS) has passed another critical milestone in their progress toward the launch of their NOFBX™ green propulsion demonstration to the International Space Station (ISS). ISPS is working toward demonstrating their high-performance, non-toxic and environmentally-benign propulsion technology on the ISS under an award from the NASA ISS National Laboratory program. In April, ISPS passed NASA’s ISS Payload Safety Review Panel phase 1 review. (5/15)

Mojave Spaceport Gets Jobs from Solar Power Venture (Source: Parabolic Arc)
An additional 50 jobs will be added at the Mojave Air & Space Port under a plan to locate three solar power facilities at the desert facility. On Tuesday, the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors approved an agreement with Elecnor, Inc., of Delaware to locate solar power facilities on approximately 12 acres of land at the spaceport. The sites are located beyond the end of one of the runways and in several open areas between Mojave’s 15 rocket test sites, officials said.

Mojave CEO and General Manager Stu Witt said the airport would be able to generate revenue by selling the power. The solar power facilities would enable the airport to extend power and water services out to the rocket test sites and other areas that current lack them. (5/15)

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