May 20, 2012

Does Britain Really Need a Spaceport? (Source: The Register)
Analysis Everyone knows about Britain's soaraway space sector. It turns over £8bn a year – the same sort of money as the remaining automotive industry – it employs tens of thousands of people, and it's growing faster than the Chinese economy. And, famously, it has done all this without any significant government help. Some people think that ought to change. This morning, the Reg attended an event at the Institute of Directors at which the IoD brought out its new report Space: Britain's New Infrastructure Frontier. Among other things, the document seeks to make the case for a British "spaceport", from which the various new craft being prepared by such companies as Virgin Galactic and XCOR might fly.

And the very word "infrastructure" pretty much implies some sort of government help or investment. Of the 25,000 directly employed in UK space, just over 7,000 work in "upstream" businesses like SSTL, actually building and operating spacecraft. The other 17,000+ work in "downstream" space business. Downstream also accounts for nearly all the turnover (£7bn of the £8bn) and most of the rapid growth the space sector has seen.

What's "downstream" space? The short answer is, it's Sky TV, accounting for two-thirds of the downstream jobs and turnover. BSkyB, the IoD report tells us, is "the biggest player in the UK space economy ... without BSkyB it [UK space] would be half the size, probably less." In other words the vaunted British space sector mostly isn't a matter of proper boffins building super-advanced hardware and selling it around the world, like SSTL, parts of Logica and a few other British firms. It's primarily a matter of us buying satellites, mainly from other countries, and using them to sell multimedia content – mainly to ourselves. (5/20)

Orbital Outfitters; Spacec Tech and Hollywood Design (Source: Quantum Pop)
If you are like the rest of the people who are busy booking flights at $100,000 plus a trip I am sure you are wondering what to wear out there. Well the folks at Orbital Outfitters are working day and night to answer that question. They are not only designing their space suits to be practical but to have a bit of style as well. Their chief designer is Chris Gilman the founder of Global Effects Inc. Global Effect founded in 1986, is one of the best known and reputable special effects companies in Hollywood. They make and design many costumes and special effects apparatus for films and he brings this sense of art to what is a by necessity a very practical no nonsense profession of engineers and scientists.

One of the innovations that is incorporated in the design of their latest suit design is the helmet for their Industrial Suborbital Spacesuit (IS3) What you may ask is this innovation? The curvature of the visor design, allows greater viewing visibility which will come in handy when you are craning your neck to view for the first time the curvature of the earth from space through the window of your spacecraft. Click here. (5/20)

Editorial: All's Not Well in Spaceport America's Progress (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Contrary to the report on Spaceport progress by Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson in Monday’s Albuquerque Journal, please consider the following: The original scope of the Spaceport called for a runway 10,000 feet long. For safety reasons, officials from Virgin Galactic have recently recommended an addition of 2,000 feet in runway length, which the Spaceport Board approved and agreed to pay for at an additional $7 million that was not mentioned in the article. This length may still prove insufficient since spaceports in other states are planning 14,000-foot to 16,000-foot runways instead of the 12,000 feet now proposed here.

Anderson did not include in her report the fact that the Spaceport Board recently voted to use excess bond payment funds intended for brick-and-mortar projects for year 2013 administrative expense, since no other funds had been provided. Anderson states the Spaceport “will attract hundreds of thousands of paying guests into our communities.” This may be a Disneyland dream of the planners of the Spaceport Experience. This economic development must be delivered now if continued local citizen support for the Spaceport tax is expected. Click here. (5/20)

North Korea Denies Jamming GPS of Civilian Aircraft (Source: Space Daily)
North Korea on Friday denied it had jammed the GPS systems of hundreds of civilian aircraft and ships in South Korea, accusing the South of using problems with navigation equipment to smear the North. Pyongyang's telecommunications ministry spokesman said the South's allegations that the North jammed GPS signals from April 28 to May 13 were "sheer fabrication" aimed at slandering the communist state. (5/20)

Mark Kelly Once Against Obama Space Plan, Now Open To It (Source: MSNBC)
MSNBC: Do you think that private companies going into space will work? Do you see this as truly the future of space flight? Mark Kelly: You know, initially i didn't. I was not a big fan of this plan that the Obama administration had early on. But just seeing how it's developed over the last few years, to see companies, as an example, Spacex, how close they are, they're going to deliver cargo to the space station next week. That's amazing. They're going to ultimately be able to deliver people to the space station. So I see the decisions that were made were very innovative. So they can be a little bit disruptive but ultimately I think this is good for our country and I think it's good for the state of Florida as well. (5/20)

Budget Pressures Prompt ISS Partners To Justify Costs (Source: Aviation Week)
More than two decades in the making and less than three years into its operational phase, the International Space Station (ISS) is experiencing a public relations crisis of sorts. Led by NASA, the ISS remains the largest international technology undertaking in history, one in which the U.S., Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan expect to have invested more than $100 billion by the end of the decade.

In addition, NASA's ISS operations, transportation and research costs are estimated at more than $3 billion annually through 2020, excluding research expenses incurred by other space station partners. So far, this expenditure has fully satisfied at least one of the space station's key goals—bringing together an international coalition, including the former Soviet Union, in pursuit of a common scientific endeavor.

A second goal—to get these same partners to view the station as a springboard for future exploration—has yet to be fully realized. The consortium cannot agree on a common destination—an asteroid, the Moon or Mars—though after more than two decades working together, all say the ISS partnership is a model for how to move forward. More troublesome is the station's third goal, scientific and industrial research, perceived by budget-stressed governments in Europe, the U.S. and Japan as not having paid off, at least not yet. Click here. (5/20)

Boeing Unveils Air-Launched Space-Access Concept (Source: Aviation Week)
Growing interest in small satellites and, just as important, the problem of how to launch them affordably, could provide hypersonic system developers with a long-awaited first step on the way to reusable, routine access to space. Piece by piece, parts of the puzzle that may conceivably drive down costs to as low as $300,000 per launch, are falling into place, according to hypersonic researchers at Boeing. Building on these pieces, the company has unveiled a small launch vehicle (SLV) concept aimed at the smallsat market, and it could be in service as early as 2020.

Unlike many previous ideas for air-breathing, multi-stage small launch systems, the SLV comprises elements that, in some cases, are already flying. Including the Scaled Composites-designed WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft that would air-launch the three-stage vehicle, virtually every technology required for the SLV is therefore either developed or at a high-technology readiness level, says Kevin Bowcutt, Boeing's chief hypersonics scientist. Sized initially to carry payloads up to 100 lb., the SLV would employ two reusable air-breathing stages and a third stage made up of an expendable or reusable rocket.

Potential drivers include the delivery of small payloads to orbital outposts such as the International Space Station or Bigelow space habitats, as well as evolving markets ranging from on-demand tactical reconnaissance and weather monitoring to satellite servicing and space debris deorbiting. Measuring almost 75 ft. in length and weighing slightly less than 25,000 lb., the SLV stack is nominally sized to be carried beneath the WK2 in the same way as the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo. (5/20)

Vegas Moon Rock Sale Didn't Fly (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The four pebbles are smaller than peppercorns, but make no mistake: They are troublesome stones. The quartet of specks the size of mouse droppings were once part of a 47½-pound harvest of moon rocks gathered in July 1969 by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. following the first lunar landing. The rocks traveled 238,857 miles from the surface of the moon to Earth, but who knew the most intriguing leg of their journey had only begun, and would eventually lead to Las Vegas?

On Friday morning, attorney Richard Wright seemed relieved to be sending the rocks back to their rightful owners, albeit by a circuitous route. Wright represents the estate of the late casino man Bob Stupak, who bought the moon rocks from Harry Coates in November 1987 for $10,000 and 200,000 shares of gravity-defying stock. Then owner of the space-themed Vegas World casino, Stupak would go on to create the Stratosphere Tower. He departed this world on Sept. 25, 2009, at age 67 from complications of leukemia and very hard living.

The pebbles Stupak possessed were part of the display presented to the country of Nicaragua. But when it appeared the federal authorities might at last come looking for the traveling Nicaraguan moon rocks, only silence was heard. The FBI, it seemed, had moved onto other cases. Wright sent a letter to the Nicaraguan embassy informing officials that his client possessed the moon rock gift. The letter was ignored. Click here. (5/20)

U.S. Could Lose Aging Eyes in the Sky (Source: CNN)
About every two weeks, Rick Allen gets a series of thermal snapshots from high above Earth that show how water gets used across the western United States, a perennial source of friction in the largely arid region. "We see all of the cold spots, which are irrigated fields," said Allen, the director of the Water Resources Research Program at the University of Idaho. "We take the relative temperatures and transform that into an equivalent of an amount of water used in cubic feet per acre per day, or cubic meters, or inches of depth. We can transform that information into types of units that are used by water managers and state agencies to manage water consumption."

The stream of data that Allen dips into has been flowing since 1984, when NASA's Landsat 5 satellite went into orbit. Landsat 5 finally shut down in November, and it successor, Landsat 7, beams back a set of images of Allen's region to the U.S. Geological Survey every 16 days -- but because of a faulty scanner, they come in with black streaks across them. A replacement is being readied for launch, but it's unlikely to make it aloft before January. (5/20)

SpaceX Replaces Faulty Rocket Valve for Space Station Flight (Source:
SpaceX engineers have replaced a faulty engine valve on a private rocket carrying the first commercial space capsule bound for the International Space Station following the last-second abort during an attempted liftoff Saturday (May 19). Technicians investigating the glitch discovered a faulty check valve was to blame for the high engine pressure that forced the booster's engines to unexpectedly shut down. SpaceX engineers replaced the balky valve late Saturday, in preparation for a possible second launch attempt early Tuesday (May 22). (5/20)

Commercial Flights Can Succeed (Source: Florida Today)
The barriers to a more robust commercial space flight industry in the United States go beyond NASA’s funding of private flights. That government’s investment is the most urgent issue this year, but the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation offered his take on the biggest issues facing the nascent industry in a wide-ranging discussion with Florida today journalists on Friday.

Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria flew aboard the space shuttles and the Russian Soyuz, commanded the International Space Station, and has walked in space more times and for more hours than any other American. Lopez-Alegria’s mission nowadays is working to make commercial human space flight viable.

“There’s a niche to fill. NASA needs commercial services for cargo and crew. This is an elegant, cost-effective and safe way to do it. We could really see the cost of launches come down.” How so? Well, Lopez-Alegria likens NASA as to an anchor tenant in a shopping center. The gaurantee of a certain number of funded flights not only gives confidence to a company to continue investing, a core the company can build on. (5/20)

County Approves Incentive Funding Plan for Post-Shuttle Economic Growth (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County commissioners passed the most substantial local effort yet to offset shuttle job losses and reverse economic decay in north Brevard. Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the operational plan for the North Brevard Economic Development Zone, the county’s main tool for recruiting and growing businesses around Titusville and Kennedy Space Center.

It’s a serious plan, calling for the collection of $18 million in property taxes over 10 years from new commercial construction only within the district. The money will go to incentives for technology, manufacturing and aerospace companies, which must give the money back if they don’t deliver jobs. (5/20)

Nagoya Group's Satellite to Launch in December for Space Debris Mission (Source: Japan Times)
A small, low-cost satellite developed by a group of companies in the Chubu region and Daido University will be sent into space in December, according to Nagoya University. ChubuSat-1 was developed by Nagoya-based Daido and a group of small businesses engaged in the aerospace industry. It will be launched on a Russian rocket and conduct space debris observation under the supervision of Nagoya University, officials said Wednesday.

The joint development was proposed by professor Hiroyasu Tajima at Nagoya University's Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory. Tajima said the group hopes to launch more satellites to bring costs low enough for private companies to enter the commercial satellite business. (5/18)

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