May 29, 2012

Embraer to Team With Brazil Telecoms in Space Plan (Source: AFP)
Sao Paulo (AFP) May 29, 2012 - Brazil's leading planemaker Embraer signed a shareholding agreement Tuesday with Telebras, the country's state-owned telecom provider, to set up a joint venture to launch a communications satellite. The two companies will form Visiona Tecnologia Espacial, with Embraer owning 51 percent of the capital and Telebras the remaining 49 percent, according to an Embraer statement. (5/29)

Manna From Heaven: Space Mining And The Peak Metals Crunch (Source: Forbes)
Q: What impact would significant asteroid mining have on future commodities prices on global metals markets? A: For some metals the commodities markets will be completely reshaped. The past will have no bearing on or resemblance to the future. But for other metals, Earth will likely always remain the primary source. But any asteroid mining operation intended to work on small profit margins would likely see the market price drop below their profit margin due to traditional producers’ protective market interventions. But the technological impact of abundant, cheap new precious metals would propagate throughout the economy and affect the course of civilization. Click here. (5/29)

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Tested at Broomfield Airport (Source: Denver Post)
Sierra Nevada Corp. today launched initial flight tests for the Dream Chaser, a spacecraft meant to transport crew and supplies to the International Space Station. The tests took place this morning at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield, according to a news release from the company. Sierra Nevada is a private space technology company, which includes a branch in Louisville. The craft could be seen hanging by a tether from a large helicopter.

The test was meant to check the craft's aerodynamic performance, he said. The test is just one step in the Dream Chaser's development. The airport was chosen for the initial test, because of its nearness to Sierra Nevada's Louisville location, but there will not be further tests at the Rocky Mountain Airport site, Maenpa said."We're pleased and happy to make our land available for the test," he said. (5/29)

False Claim of NASA Participation in Wrinkle Research (Source: SpaceRef)
Contrary to what has been reported by various news outlets NASA is not doing anti-wrinkle research. Nor is the University of Utah. This story in the New York Daily News is typical of what has been published over the past few days. It states:

"A "space drink" concocted by NASA to protect astronauts from radiation is having out-of-this-world results on battling wrinkles, blemishes and other skin damage from the sun. Researchers at the University of Utah found the drink known as AS10 has shown miraculous results on the 180 skin-damaged participants in their human trials. After just four months of drinking two shots of the potion daily, UV spots were reduced by 30% and wrinkles by 17%."

According to information provided by NASA, the "AS10" food substance mentioned in this news story is not a NASA food product. This food substance may have been developed by someone else using a product developed originally by AmeriSciences but NASA itself has not used any material or food substance described in these various news stories related to wrinkles nor is it conducting any research related to the claims made in these news stories. The University of Utah says that they have nothing to do with the researcher who is quoted and NASA has nothing to do with this research. (5/29)

President Obama Awards John Glenn with Medal of Freedom (Source: Collect Space)
John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, was honored by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony held at the White House on Tuesday (May 29). Glenn was present at the event with this year's 12 other medal recipients, including influential musician Bob Dylan, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in 1912. (5/29)

Crunch Time for Google Lunar X Prize Teams (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It looks like things are getting down to the wire for many of the 26 teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize. With a 2015 deadline looming, a long lead time in securing a booster, and many of the teams falling significantly short on raising money, it looks like the field will be significantly smaller by the end of the year. Click here. (5/29)

Kinect in Orbit to Turn Spacecraft Into Building Blocks (Source: New Scientist)
Small satellites capable of docking in orbit could be used as "space building blocks" to create larger spacecraft, says UK firm Surrey Satellite Technology. Not content with putting a smartphone app in space, the company now plans to launch a satellite equipped with a Kinect depth camera, allowing it to locate and join with other nearby satellites.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is the latest of many large-scale vehicles to dock in space, but joining small and low-cost craft has not been attempted before. Surrey Satellite Technology's Strand-2 mission will launch two 30cm-long satellites on the same rocket, then attempt to dock them by using the Kinect sensor to align together in 3D space. (5/29)

The U.S.‘s Aging Earth Observation Satellites (Source: Directions)
A report from the National Research Council suggests that NASA is not putting up satellites fast enough to support the needed basic science related to weather, climate and other challenges facing the U.S. and the rest of the world. The report warns that the U.S. constellation may drop to just one quarter its size in just a few years. What does this mean for geospatial technologists and how can we help fellow citizens to understand the value of this in-orbit infrastructure? Click here to listen to the podcast. (5/29)

Dragon Being Prepared for Departure and (FAA-Licensed) Reentry (Source: NASA)
The Expedition 31 crew of the International Space Station spent much of the day Tuesday working with the SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle, reviewing procedures for the departure of the first commercial spacecraft to visit the station and packing it with items for return to Earth. Dragon, which delivered 1,014 pounds of non-critical cargo on its demonstration flight to the station, was cleared unanimously Tuesday by the station’s Mission Management Team for unberthing early Thursday.

In reverse order of how Dragon was captured and berthed Friday, the crew will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the vehicle from the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony node at 4:05 a.m., move it away from the station and release it at 6:10 a.m. for return to Earth. The SpaceX team in Hawthorne, Calif., will run Dragon through about five hours of orbital operations before commanding it to a splashdown for recovery off the California coast. (5/29)

Falcon-Heavy Mission Will Force Launch Site Decision (Source: SPACErePORT)
No date or location was announced for the new Intelsat launch now planned aboard a SpaceX Falcon-Heavy rocket. It is likely a placemarker reservation for a TBD Intelsat payload, but since it will go into geostationary orbit, it cannot be launched from Vandenberg AFB, SpaceX's only near-term Falcon-Heavy launch site. This will force SpaceX to choose between Florida, Texas, or Puerto Rico (or ??) for their next launch pad. Their current launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport has limited throughput and may not be able to handle the larger vehicle, so SpaceX is talking to NASA about using a former Space Shuttle launch pad.

Several factors work in Florida's favor for their new launch pad, including NASA's existing LC-39 launch pad infrastructure, state funding that would be available for infrastructure upgrades, and SpaceX's desire to launch EELV-class military payloads aboard Falcon-Heavy, which might require the kind of launch site security only available at the Cape. (5/29)

Intelsat Picks Falcon Heavy-Lift Rocket for Commercial Satellite (Source: SpaceRef)
Intelsat and SpaceX announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket. This is the first commercial contract for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. Under the agreement, an Intelsat satellite will be launched into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in the world and historically is second only to the Apollo-era Saturn V moon rocket. Capable of lifting 53 metric tons (117,000 pounds) to low Earth orbit and over 12 metric tons (26,000 pounds) to GTO, Falcon Heavy will provide more than twice the performance to low Earth orbit of any other launch vehicle. (5/29)

A Test of Technology and a Validation of Vision (Source: Space Review)
Last week's flight of the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station was a major achievement for the company and for NASA, demonstrating its ability to safely deliver cargo to the station. Jeff Foust examines how it's also proof of a vision for commercial spaceflight that dates back long before the current administration. Visit to view the article. (5/29)

DragonLab-g: an Early Step to Mars and Beyond (Source: Space Review)
The success of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft so far makes some wonder what else it can do besides transport cargo or people to and from the International Space Station. Tom Hill describes how it can be used to study some of the key physiological issues of a human mission to Mars. Visit to view the article. (5/29)

The Death of Frankensat (Source: Space Review)
One of the launch failures during the CORONA program involved a unique experimental satellite. Dwayne Day explores the development of that satellite and the circumstances that led to it crashing into a trailer park. Visit to view the article. (5/29)

Renewed Hope for Export Control Reform (Source: Space Review)
Reforming space export controls to make it less difficult for US companies to sell their products overseas has been a challenge for the space industry for several years. Jeff Foust reports on some renewed optimism thanks to a new report and an amendment to a defense bill. Visit to view the article. (5/29)

CASIS Partners with TERC to Improve Access to Earth Imagery From ISS (Source: SpaceRef)
CASIS has signed an agreement with the Technical Education Research Center (TERC) to provide a $300,000 investment that will greatly improve the process for attaining on orbit photography from the ISS, as well as use of Earth images for scientific research and education. TERC, an education non-profit, in collaboration with the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) will enhance and adapt the Windows on Earth software for use by astronauts to replace the current multi-step process for targeting, photographing and geo-referencing images. (5/29)

Florida Lunar X-Prize Team Announces New Partner (Source: Omega Envoy)
Omega Envoy, the Florida team competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) is proud to welcome CT Social as a new partner company. CT Social is a social media management and consulting company based in Orlando. They offer support services for businesses seeking to develop or expand their presence online through web and graphic design, mobile apps, and social strategies. Members of the CT Social team will be assisting Omega Envoy staff as they develop their outreach efforts online and work to educate the public about the importance of commercial space flight.

The Omega Envoy project is run by Earthrise Space, Inc. (ESI), a non-profit research institution dedicated to developing space technology in collaboration with industry and academic institutions. ESI seeks to provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience designing, building, testing, and operating real spacecraft. Their efforts provide students with real-world experience that is unavailable to them in the classroom or through internships with large corporations. (5/29)

Space Florida Supports ITAR Export Compliance Event (Source: EDC of FSC)
Wondering if your product or service is controlled by ITAR? Are you certain your company is in compliance with ISO and/or AS certification requirements? Join the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast and Space Florida for an ITAR - Export - AS - ISO compliance briefing on June 19 in Rockledge. Click here for information. (5/29)

A Welcome Boom in Private Space Travel (Source: Summit Daily)
SpaceX has another, more interesting launch scheduled this year as well: a demonstration flight of the “Falcon Heavy,” which will lift twice as much cargo to orbit as the now-retired space shuttle, and more than two-and-a-half times that of the Soviet-era “Proton” rocket the Russians are still using. The company will not only use it to offer lower-cost launches for heavy payloads, but to orbit an increasingly-complex series of private laboratories and other spacecraft. The first flight of the “Dragonlab” is scheduled for mid-2014, and is already fully-subscribed. (5/29)

Malaysia Spaceport Project (Source: On Islam)
“Spaceport Malaysia” is a suborbital space center which will be finished in 2015 in Malacca, the most popular tourist destination in Malaysia. The project will consist of two geographical areas: Malacca Space Center and Spaceflight Terminal, and the two areas will be physically connected to each other. This new facility is Malaysia’s first for operations of suborbital spaceplanes for space tourism, low-earth orbit research, commercial zero gravity flights, propulsion R&D, in addition to spaceplane development, aerospace themed education and entertainment.

Malacca space center will consist of a university with a zero gravity research program, a spaceplane and astronaut hall of fame, bungalows with lunar architectural concept, a space resort, a space theme park and few conventional developments including a service apartment and shopping outlets. (5/29)

Brietling Plans New Watch In Honor of Lost Mercury Timepiece (Source: CollectSpace)
Swiss watchmaker Breitling is offering a new timepiece in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its watches' first launch into space, which was also the first time an American astronaut wore any wristwatch into orbit. The chronograph that Scott Carpenter wore on NASA's Mercury-Atlas 7 mission has been missing for the half-century since Carpenter set the record as the second American to circle the Earth.

Carpenter's watch was water-damaged after splashdown, so he sent it to Brietling for repair. Rather than repair and return the space-launched watch, Breitling instead presented Carpenter with a new Navitimer Cosmonaute, the production model he had inspired. At the time, the watchmaker probably thought it was a generous gesture and Carpenter appreciated the new timepiece.

Today, the first watch flown on a U.S. crewed spaceflight would be very valuable, if not priceless. The only known photographs of it were captured by happenstance, when NASA photographers caught the watch in pre-flight shots as Carpenter strapped into Aurora 7 for his history-making flight. To this day, it's unknown what became of the watch that orbited the Earth. Breitling has searched through its vaults to no avail. (5/29)

Minor Planet Named After Renowned Chinese Scientist (Source: Xinhua)
A minor planet that was discovered by Chinese scientists, has been named after a well-known late Chinese scientist and educator Yan Jici, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced Monday. The minor planet, known as No. 10611 internationally, was discovered by the Beijing Schmidt CCD Asteroid Program under the National Astronomical Observatories with the CAS in 1997, and was bestowed the name in memory of Yan, said the CAS. (5/29)

Excalibur Almaz Details Plans for Capsule and Space Station (Source: Flight Global)
Excalibur Almaz plans to launch humans to space stations in orbit around the moon. The British company will use legacy Russian hardware, capsules from the Soviet Soyuz space program and space stations from Salyut. Both capsules and stations will undergo upgrades, but the basic hardware has flown in space up to nine times, and is described by Excalibur CEO Art Dula as have a technical readiness level of nine, the highest possible.

The capsules will initially be launched by Russian Soyuz FG launch vehicles from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Once in low Earth orbit (LEO), the capsules will dock with a Salyut station, which will use electric Hall thrusters to propel itself into orbit around the moon. Four capsules, left over from the Soviet Union's secret military Soyuz program have been purchased and shipped to Excalibur's facilities on the Isle of Man, as have two Salyut stations in various phases of construction.

"Our company is positioned now to seek partners, customers and investors for our first flight," says Dula. "That's why we're making it public now." Extensive testing on the 30-year-old capsules indicates that "we could fly these reusable vehicles to orbit at least up to 15 times, on 15 missions, without refurbishment of the thermal protection system. This is an extremely robust system," says Dula. (5/29)

NASA Wanted Astronauts to View Venus Up-Close (Source: Discovery)
In 1967, NASA considered giving three astronauts a really rare view of Venus by sending them on a flyby around the second planet from the sun. The mission was developed under the Apollo Applications Program (AAP) that was designed to build on and apply Apollo-era technology to greater goals in space. Out of the AAP NASA hoped to see Earth orbiting laboratories, research stations on the moon, and manned interplanetary missions. In 1967, this was America’s future in space.

To get a crew there, NASA would use a revised Apollo spacecraft. Like the lunar missions, it was a tripartite design composed of a Command and Service Module (CSM), and Environmental Support Module (ESM), and a third habitable section. A three-man crew, nestled in the CM, would launch on a Saturn V. The CSM would perform the same functions it did during the Apollo lunar missions: its onboard computer would serve as the primary guidance and navigation system, provide the main reaction control, and act as the principle telemetry and communications link with mission control.

Really, the mission would be a simple of matter of engineers rewriting the computer’s commands to send the crew to Venus instead of the moon. The hard part is keeping them alive and well during the 400 day mission. This is where the other modules come into play. With no purpose for a Lunar Module on a Venus flyby, the spidery spacecraft would be swapped out for the larger ESM. Once in Earth orbit, the crew would separate the CSM from the rest of the spacecraft, turn around, and dock with the ESM. (5/29)

Kazakhstan Against Running of Belarusian Space Satellite (Source:
Kazakhstan does not permit the fall of the first stage of "Soyuz" mother missile in its territory. Thus, three missiles may not fly into space. These missiles have to launch six satellites, including four from Belarus, Canada, Germany and the European Union each. Belarusian spacecraft (BelKA) was to have been launched in June.

The peculiarity of "Soyuz" launches is that their stages will fall in the territory of Kustanaiskaya and Aktubinkaya regions of Kazakhstan, which requires a special permit. However, the Kazakh side is still ponding on the issue. Thus, residents of Kustanai complain that "Soyuz" mother missile kills herds of antelopes. The results of examination will be known only in two weeks. Meanwhile, scientific director of the Space Policy Institute, Ivan Moiseyev, believes that Astana simply extorts money in such a way. (5/29)

So Far, Many Space Projects Remain Promises (Source: Bakersfield Californian)
Some industry watchers are concerned that the hype sometimes flies higher than the spaceships themselves. In light of past projections and delays, some are skeptical that Virgin can begin commercial space tourism flights by late 2013, as company officials have predicted. Now Virgin is saying that later this year it plans to test a "starter" engine rather than the engine that will be mounted on its spaceship, said Douglas Messier. He agreed that there has never been a shortage of hype and overconfidence in the commercial space industry.

In 2005, Interorbital Systems, also based in Mojave, sold an advance ticket to a future orbital tourism flight for $250,000. In 2007, Gladstone, Mo., resident Tim Reed, who purchased the ticket, said he was confident he would be orbiting the earth by 2009. Reed, who turns 59 in August, is still aiting. In 2007, Jim Benson, founder of Benson Space Co., said his Dream Chaser rocketplane would beat his competitors to suborbital space as soon as 2008. It didn't happen. The company has since been absorbed by Sierra Nevada.

"NewSpace remains a fringe industry, and as such, has many good ideas that are simply underfunded. Some," William Watson said, "are oversold... One difference today, versus the '90s, is that you now have a growing club of wealthy individuals leveraging personal fortunes and reputations to create a future more similar to their childhood dreams." That billionaire phenomenon has attracted government support and the creation of an encouraging regulatory environment, Watson said. (5/29)

Russia, Kazakhstan in Deadlock Over Rocket Launches (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia and Kazakhstan have failed so far to reach an agreement on a new drop zone for the debris of Russian carrier rockets being launched from the Baikonur space center, Kazakh space agency Kazcosmos said. Russian Kommersant daily said in an article last week that Russia would not be able to carry out three scheduled rocket launches because of the dispute over the drop zone. “The launches mentioned in the article have not been agreed to by Kazakhstan because they require a new debris drop zone, which is not part of the Baikonur rent agreement of December 1994,” Kazcosmos said in a statement on Monday. (5/29)

920th Rescue Wing Supports Launch Operations at Spaceport (Source: America Space)
If you have ever watched a rocket or space shuttle launch in person from Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, then you have probably noticed one or two Pave Hawk helicopters flying overhead from time-to-time before and after the launch (or the scrub). Maybe you knew what they were doing, or perhaps you didn’t and just thought it was cool to watch military aircraft patrol the launch site. Whatever your thoughts, their role in the skies above Cape Canaveral is critical to the safety in and around a launch site for every mission.

Based out of Patrick Air Force Base, the 920th Rescue Wing serves as an Air Force Reserve Command combat-search-and-rescue unit – responsible for a variety of demanding missions and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, trained to perform some of the most highly-specialized operations in the Air Force. Their elite team of Pararescuemen, better known as PJ’s, are among the most highly trained emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military. (5/29)

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