May 24, 2012

Boeing Completes Software Review for CST-100 Spacecraft (Source: Boeing)
Boeing successfully completed the software Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) initiative on May 18. CCDev-2 is part of NASA’s Space Act Agreement. Software competency is essential to all operational aspects of Boeing's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, including launch, orbital maneuvering, docking with and separating from the International Space Station, re-entry and landing.

The PDR team analyzed the system's flight software, including details regarding safety, testing, overall redundancy management, avionics hardware and ground systems. By following a rigorous design process that integrates NASA Human Rating requirements as well as CST-100 system-level requirements, Boeing is reducing the risk of potential future certification noncompliance and rework that could impact safety, cost and schedule. (5/24)

Starships Fueled on Antimatter From Space? (Source: Discovery)
Over the coming decades there will be increasing discussion about sending robotic interstellar probes to nearby stars. The discovery and cataloging of inhabited planets within just a few light-years of Earth will provide the motivation; we'll want to see how Darwinian evolution has played out on other worlds. Remote sensing from huge space telescopes may never definitively prove that life is elsewhere -- we’ll want to see it squirming under a microscope or, better yet, walking on all six legs.

But how to get to the stars? Both scientists and science fiction writers have long favored matter-antimatter propulsion. In the Star Trek TV series, antimatter fuel is discussed as casually as buying a propane cylinder for the barbecue grill. Antimatter is the mirror image of the electrical charges found in normal matter. It was abundant after the Big Bang. But when it came into contact with normal matter, *poof!* The Ying-Yang forms of matter annihilated with each other in a powerful burst of gamma rays. Click here. (5/24)

Conrad Foundation, NanoRacks to Launch Student Experiments with AmEx Points System (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, has announced the Foundation has joined forces with NanoRacks LLC to launch a new program called DreamUp. The program will assist students in funding an out-of-this-world educational experience – conducting experiments in space. DreamUp is the first program to enable students to use American Express Membership Rewards points to fund student experiments onboard the International Space Station (ISS). (5/24)

Blue Origin Test Craft Lands in Museum (Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Commercial spaceflight company Blue Origin started testing its idea for reusable rockets that takeoff and land vertically with a jet-powered craft named Charon in 2005. On Tuesday, with the help of a crane, Charon landed in the Seattle Museum of Flight's new Space Gallery on a long-term loan from Blue Origin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' contribution to the area's fast-growing commercial spaceflight sector.

"This is, in my mind, the equivalent of the Wright glider that we've got over on the other side." Museum of Flight President and CEO Douglas King said Tuesday. The glider, in the museum's main area across the street from the Space Gallery, was a necessary step toward powered flight, as the jet-powered Charon is toward a reusable rocket booster, he explained. (5/24)

Sri Lanka Plans to Launch its First Satellite in 2015 (Source: Xinhua)
Sri Lanka is set to launch its first satellite by 2015 following an agreement with a Chinese company. SupremeSAT, a local company said it has reached an agreement with the Sri Lankan board of investment to the tune of $20 million for the project. By 2015 the company hopes to utilize the orbital slot of Sri Lanka which is located at 50 degrees East and launch the island's first ever telecommunications satellite.

"We already have two co-branded satellites with the Chinese company in orbit and by 2015 we hope to launch our own satellite which will be Sri Lanka's first," an official at SupremeSAT told Xinhua. The company said it has entered into an exclusive partnership agreement with China's state-owned China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) for the design, manufacturing and launching of the satellite. (5/24)

NASA Launches Upgraded Space App (Source:
iPhone and iPod touch owners have been left out of many features in the Android version of the NASA mobile app for tracking missions and getting news reports, photos and other information about the agency's extensive programs. This week, NASA issued the 2.0 version, the first major upgrade to the iPhone app since 2009 — bringing it up to speed with the Android app and adding a few exclusive features as well. (A good choice of priorities, since Android-based smartphones are nearly twice as popular in the U.S. as those running Apple's iOS software.) (5/24)

Pioneering Spaceflight Quiets Critics (Source: Reuters)
A pioneering commercial spaceship closed in on the International Space Station on Wednesday, a key test in a controversial program to reduce the U.S. government's role in human space flight. Cargo missions are the first step. A more controversial step is the Obama administration's so-called Commercial Crew efforts to develop space taxis to carry astronauts to and from the station. The initiative, which has been criticized by such luminaries as Apollo 11 moonwalker Neil Armstrong, may be helped by SpaceX's high-profile flight. NASA is in the process of reviewing proposals from at least four firms, including SpaceX, for space taxi development funds. Selection of at least two and possibly more space taxi designs are expected in August. (5/24)

Armstrong Breaks Silence to Give Accountants Moon Exclusive (Source: The Guardian)
As the first person to walk on the moon, he is a man whose name will be remembered for generations to come. But one of the other well-known things about Neil Armstrong is that he hardly ever gives interviews. It was therefore something of a coup for Alex Malley, chief executive of Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia, to secure almost an hour of Armstrong’s time to discuss the astronaut’s trip to the moon.

“NASA has been one of the most successful public investments in motivating students to do well and achieve all they can achieve,” said Armstrong. “It’s sad that we are turning the program in a direction where it will reduce the amount of motivation and stimulation it provides to young people.”

In the years since his legendary mission, Armstrong has watched NASA’s position and ambitions erode. “I’m substantially concerned about the policy directions of the space agency, which are directed by the administration,” he said. “We have a situation... where the White House and the Congress are at odds over what the future direction should be and they’re playing a game and NASA is the shuttlecock they’re hitting back and forth as both sides try to get NASA on the proper path.” (5/24)

Will Mitt Romney Fire Advisor Michael Griffin For Proposing Permanent Moon Base? (Source: Obama/Biden)
While speaking to Global Space Exploration Conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Romney Space Advisor Michael Griffin renewed his calls for a “permanent base on the moon.” Given Romney’s promise to fire anyone who proposed putting a colony on the moon, will Romney keep his promise by firing Griffin?

In January, Romney said: "I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I'd say, 'You're fired,'” This was followed the same week by Romney naming former NASA Administration Michael Griffin to a Space Policy Advisory Group. Speaking on May 22 at an AIAA conference, Griffin said: “In order to extend human exploration, fly beyond the earth and have a presence in the solar system, the next step in doing that would be to have a permanent base on the moon.” Click here. (5/24)

Embry-Riddle Adds Astronomy Degree (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will add three new degree programs at its Prescott, Arizona, campus, including a B.S. in Astronomy. This degree program leverages the experience of world-class faculty astronomers, and offers undergraduate students unlimited access to an on-campus optical observatory and radiotelescope array. The opportunity to study astronomy in the clear night sky of the Northern Arizona mountains, home of many of the nation’s best astronomical observatories, is a highlight of the program. (5/24)

Shuttle Replica On Way to Houston from KSC (Source: Florida Today)
The shuttle orbiter replica Explorer is on its way to Houston this morning after departing Kennedy Space Center today atop a barge. Welded down on the vessel, the full-scale, high-fidelity replica departed the turn basin near the Vehicle Assembly Building around 6:40 a.m. and is expected to float through the locks at Port Canaveral at about 9 a.m. The barge then will make its way out into the Atlantic Ocean, round the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, and then cross the Gulf of Mexico to Texas. The trip to Space Center Houston is expected to take about 10 days. (5/24)

Dragon Aces Orbital Driving Test (Source: Discovery)
SpaceX's Dragon capsule aced its orbital driving test Thursday, positioning the company a step closer to becoming the first private firm to reach the International Space Station. Starting at a point 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) below and behind the outpost, Dragon used GPS satellite navigation data and data from the space station itself to precisely navigate to a point 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) away. Besides testing its space legs, Dragon checked communications links with ground control teams and with the space station.

Astronauts aboard the station used a special control box to turn on Dragon's strobe light, a demonstration of the crew's ability to control the capsule. The tests cleared SpaceX to proceed with a second flyby and approach to the station on Friday. If all goes well, the Dragon will maneuver to within 30 feet of the station and shut down its thrusters so it can be captured by the station’s robotic crane. Station flight engineer Don Pettit, who will be operating the 58-foot long arm, is expected to pluck Dragon from orbit around 11:30 a.m. (5/24)

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon (Source: NASA)
NASA and the X Prize Foundation announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon.

NASA recognizes that many spacefaring nations and commercial entities are on the verge of landing spacecraft on the moon. The agency engaged in a cooperative dialogue with the X Prize Foundation and the Google Lunar X Prize teams to develop the recommendations. NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers share a common interest in preserving humanity's first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers. (5/24)

NASA Receives Widespread Concepts for Future Mars Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA's call to scientists and engineers to help plan a new strategy to explore Mars has resulted in almost double the amount of expected submissions with unique and bold ideas. About 400 concepts or abstracts were submitted to the Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration Workshop in Houston, which was organized to gather input for the reformulation of NASA's Mars Exploration Program.

Submissions came from individuals and teams that included professional researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, NASA centers, federal laboratories, industry, and international partner organizations. NASA is reformulating the Mars Exploration Program to be responsive to high-priority science goals and President Obama's challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the 2030s. (5/24)

Widen the Goal in Search for Alien Life (Source: New Scientist)
What's wrong with the definition of "life"? Almost everything. For a start, we don't really have one. When you ask a biologist, "Are viruses alive?", half of them will say yes, and half will say no. We don't want a terrestrial-life-only definition. We want one that could apply elsewhere in the universe. This is important because NASA is trying to build an instrument to detect life elsewhere. Click here. (5/24)

Partisan Bickering Goes Nowhere (Source: TPIS)
There comes a point in time where the “old way of doing things” just becomes obsolete. This can be said of the industrial complex or unions. This could be said of both Democrats and Republicans. The dogma that plagues debates and shuts people down is destructive. The massive mis-information campaigns on issues such as space policy is sickening. There is nothing wrong with trying to reshape our space program when it has had such poor performance. Everyone has excuses why Project X failed or Mission Y was canceled.

The system is broke – and simply throwing money at the problem does not work.... The United States is very broke. We simply cannot afford SLS, CxP, Shuttle, and JWST. Something needs to change. Things like COTS/CRS, the CCDev program, with SAAs are a change that is working. Of course you will have those who simply go on rants or tirades about how they are not, but then we simply look to events to see that they really are.

Finally, the fact that people will not support COTS/CRS, CCDev, and SAAs merely because President X or Assistant Administrator Y are from Party Z is petty, myopic, and childish. TEA Party in Space does not care who came up with the idea, only that is it a viable solution to a problem. People can continue to get on their soap boxes and continue their diatribes, but the truth is the programs that is COTS/CRS, the CCDev program, and SAAs are working and people from both sides of the aisle can take credit for it. (5/24)

Slowdown in Pentagon Sales Hits Gilat’s Bottom Line (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband terminal provider Gilat Satellite Networks on May 24 reported a decline in revenue and profit for the three months ending March 31 but said it expects the business to recover later this year. In a conference call with investors, officials from Petah Tikva, Israel-based Gilat said the slowdown in U.S. Department of Defense purchases has had a disproportionate effect on Gilat’s operating profit given that defense contracts typically are more profitable than its commercial business. (5/24)

OHB Awarded Carbonsat Study Contract (Source: Space News)
Germany’s OHB System will design a satellite to monitor global carbon dioxide and methane concentrations, the two most significant contributors to global warming, under a 20-month study with the European Space Agency (ESA) announced May 24. Under the study, valued at 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million), Bremen-based OHB and its partners, Thales Alenia Space of France, GMV of Spain and CGS of Italy — an OHB System sister company — will propose a satellite and mission architecture for ESA to review in 2013. (5/24)

Isle of Man Space Industry praised in Report on the British Space Sector (Source: SpaceRef)
The Isle of Man's space industry was singled out for praise in a major report presented at the Institute of Directors (IoD) in London on Friday 18th May. The report entitled 'Space: Britain's New Infrastructure Frontier' was presented to a sell out audience of over 100 key players from the British space industry.

The report contains a full section on the Isle of Man space industry entitled 'The Isle of Man's Mighty Space Sector'. It highlights the Island's ability to innovate, embracing new and growing industries - 'Like many micro nations, the Isle Of Man has a history of quickly adapting to fast emerging industries - from fishing to banking to financial supervision to the film industry to e-gaming and e-commerce and now space'. It puts much of the Island's success down to 'achieving a cluster effect of major companies'. (5/24)

Exploring An Old NASA Outpost on Bermuda (Source: Huffington Post)
To anyone who's spent time on a U.S. military base, the architecture might be a giveaway. The area, airport included, was home to Naval Air Station Bermuda from 1970 to 1995. The architectural style -- if you want to call it that -- is pretty unique. This area, on the eastern part of St. David's island, has a long history as military territory. The story goes something like this: In 1944, consumed by WWII, the U.S. developed Fort Bell and Kindley Field airfield on the island. Cooper's Island was used to house ammo bunkers and underground storage tanks.

The Air Force hung out for a while before the Navy came in for good in 1970. In 1960, NASA was given permission to build a tracking station on Cooper's Island. The station played a role in the Mercury Project, as well as all of the Gemini, Apollo and Skyab missions. Then, in 1997, NASA shut down the station. In 2001, the U.S. handed the land back over to Bermuda. Click here. (5/24)

Radar, Drones Could Offset Aging Satellites During Hurricane Season (Source: Florida Today)
Technological leaps promise better hurricane forecasts in the next few years. But aging satellites could jeopardize those gains and the future of storm forecasting in the long run. First, the good news: This will be the first year meteorologists in Melbourne and elsewhere in Florida tap new 3-D radar systems that yield more precise data that could lead to timelier flash-flood, hail and other extreme weather warnings.

Global Hawk, a long-distance drone operated by NASA and NOAA, will continue this hurricane season to spy the storm traits that reveal how cyclones intensify — the holy grail of hurricane forecasting. Also, track forecasting accuracy has improved so much in recent years that the National Hurricane Center in Miami plans to experiment this season with creating hurricane track forecasts up to seven days in advance, instead of the current five days. Click here. (5/24)

Competition Will Seek Microbes at Edge of Space (Source: NSS)
A NASA-inspired competition is challenging citizen scientists to build hardware for collecting microorganisms at the edge of space. Citizen scientists can win cash prizes up to $10,000 in the High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge, announced Saturday by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy. If successful, their work may help stop a future epidemic. Click here. (5/24)

Florida Defense & Technology Showcase Planned in Clearwater in September (Source: FFCA)
The Florida Defense & Technology Showcase (FDTS), hosted by Congressman C.W. Bill Young and presented by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Florida Federal Contractors Association (FFCA), is a reverse trade show where subcontractors exhibit and defense industry contractors meet new suppliers. It is planned for Sep. 17-19 in Clearwater Beach. Click here for information. (5/24)

CASIS and the American Astronautical Society Organize 1st Annual ISS R&D Conference (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the American Astronautical Society (in cooperation with NASA) are co-sponsoring the 1st Annual ISS Research and Development Conference on June 26-28 in Denver. The conference will provide an opportunity for scientists and organizations from a wide variety of research fields – including those who have never flown research in space – to learn how a platform like the ISS, with access to microgravity and extreme environments, can benefit scientific investigations in ways that no Earth-based laboratory can replicate. Click here. (5/22)

XCOR Liquid Oxygen Piston Pump Ready for Reusable Space Flight (Source: XCOR)
XCOR announced today that it has achieved a key technical milestone with its flight weight rocket piston pump hardware. XCOR engineers have successfully and repeatedly pumped liquid oxygen (LOX) at flow rates required to supply the Lynx suborbital vehicle main engines. Combined with earlier demonstrated kerosene pumps and fully characterized engines, XCOR is now poised for main propulsion integration into the Lynx flight weight fuselage.

XCOR’s family of rocket piston pumps and engines now includes and is suitable for: kerosene, LOX, liquid hydrogen (LH2), and liquid methane. These piston pumps are a critical component for safe, cost-effective, sustainable, reliable and highly reusable rocket engines for XCOR’s Lynx and other launchers including upper stage liquid hydrogen engines suitable for the Atlas V, Delta IV, and the planned NASA Space Launch System (SLS). (5/24)

Europa Has More Water Than Earth (Source: NASA)
How much of Jupiter's moon Europa is made of water? A lot, actually. Based on the Galileo probe data acquired during its exploration of the Jovian system from 1995 to 2003, Europa possesses a deep, global ocean of liquid water beneath a layer of surface ice. The subsurface ocean plus ice layer could range from 80 to 170 kilometers in average depth. Adopting an estimate of 100 kilometers depth, if all the water on Europa were gathered into a ball it would have a radius of 877 kilometers, a volume 2-3 times the volume of water in Earth's oceans. Click here. (5/24)

NASA Aims for Human Rendezvous at Mars in 2033 (Source: Nature)
It would be the most precious cargo since the Apollo astronauts returned Moon rocks to Earth. In 2033, humans would arrive in Mars orbit in order to pick up and return to Earth a canister containing the hopes and dreams of Mars scientists: a small collection of Mars rocks that would have been previously collected and put into orbit.

An internal NASA study group, tasked with replanning the agency’s beleaguered Mars program, revealed on Tuesday that it was using this working scenario and date as a goal. The group has been tasked with finding ways of getting the human and robotic sides of NASA to work together more. In return for supplemental funds from the human programme and the technology office, the robotic science missions might, for instance, include experiments useful for the human program, such as radiation detectors or optical communication demonstrations. (5/24)

My Spaceport is Bigger and More Legally Authorized Than Yours (Source: Big Think)
With state and local governments still suffering from a persistent deficit of tax revenues due to the moribund economic recovery, smart politicians are looking ahead and lobbying for spaceport development in their constituencies. Saceport America has been the most prominently profiled new spaceport developed to date, thanks in large part to its anchor tenant Virgin Galactic.

NewSpace Global analysts believe that in the coming decades, Spaceports will dot the international landscape and become as common as Jersey Shore spinoffs. Why? Because the economic impact of Spaceport development and the related infrastructure, amenity base, and job growth impact is very, very real.

Given the different stages of planning for international spaceports, our analysts routinely track the progress and announcement of proposed sites. This is the first of a two-part series that provides a survey of future spaceport locations—places where you might one day find yourself futzing around on your iPad 20 because your flight to the Bigelow space hotel was under weather delay. Click here. (5/24)

Editorial: A Voyage, Spirit Lost (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
Tuesday, a privately funded rocket carrying an unmanned capsule took off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, opening a new chapter in space fight: Rockets sent aloft by businesses and by those who can bankroll such events. Excuse us if we applaud while sitting. It is an accomplishment for the private sector, to be sure. But space flight was supposed to be more than just a business trip, wasn’t it?

Space travel was America at its best and we were doing it better than the Russians. The race for space, it was called. Us against them. The ultimate Cold War battle, that we finally won in 1969. But it was more than that. It let us dream. Somewhere along the line we lost that, the spirit of a nation on a quest. And no matter how many successful rockets private companies send into space, no matter how much it helps the bottom line, it will never be the same as sending our dreams soaring into the heavens. (5/23)

Editorial Paints Pessimistic Picture (Source: SPACErePORT)
The editorial--A Voyage, Spirit Lost--paints an overly pessimistic view of our nation's space program. Don't blame NASA's goals for commercial human spaceflight for the nation's apathy about space. Just look back at the last few decades of spaceflight, when "exploration" meant circling a couple hundred miles above the Earth in a Space Shuttle. Remember the newscasts about those missions? They normally focused on which songs were played to wake up the astronauts.

The glory days of Mercury and Apollo are long gone. And like the early days of aviation, the folks who flew those early vehicles deserve their hero status. But also like the early days of aviation, as spaceflight becomes more commonplace, it makes sense for the government to step aside and let the private sector establish a vibrant space transportation industry.

This will allow NASA to focus its limited resources on real exploration, sending a new group of right-stuff astronauts and robotic probes beyond Earth's orbit. NASA couldn't do this while the costs for Space Shuttle operations dominated the agency's budget. Now, with the Space Shuttles retired and companies like SpaceX poised to service the International Space Station, NASA is developing a massive new launch vehicle--the Space Launch System--that will carry astronauts to asteroids, the Moon, and eventually to Mars. (5/24)

A Private Rally Halts U.S. Retreat from Outer Space (Source: News Tribune)
SpaceX would become the first commercial enterprise with an independent grip on space flight. The company hopes to be launching humans into orbit in a few years. Competitors are not far behind. Several – including Blue Origin of Kent – are also aiming to send astronauts into space. Paul Allen is helping fund a slew of ideas, including asteroid mining and an immense aircraft from which rockets could be launched.

This doesn’t exactly augur the privatization of outer space. The proliferation of these ventures might be described as a gold rush without the gold. Or maybe a rush for gold buried by the government. Click here. Editor's Note: It's disappointing that so many news reports characterize commercial spaceflight as something new, when in reality it has been around for decades with U.S. companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital, and their predecessors leading the way. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they've sacrificed nearly 100% of U.S. commercial market share to instead focus on higher priced government missions. (5/24)

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