June 11, 2012

Astronauts Train for Deep Space Missions Underwater, Off Florida's Coast (Source: NPR)
NASA may have retired its shuttles, but it has its sights on sending astronauts deeper into space than ever before. These voyages are years away, but on Monday, astronauts are heading underwater to take part in a simulation that will help them figure out how they might explore one possible new destination: a near-Earth asteroid. It'll be the space agency's 16th NEEMO expedition — NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations — commanded by astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. She flew on one of the last space shuttle missions, and even helped prepare Atlantis for its final launch.

"It was a very bittersweet time," says Metcalf-Lindenburger, who wants to go into space again. In the meantime, she's commanding a four-person crew that's putting on scuba gear instead of space suits. She says we all have to move on. Her crew will spend two weeks working underwater, which is the best approximation on this planet of what it would be like to operate in the zero gravity of an asteroid. Their base will be an underwater lab called Aquarius. It's about the size of a school bus and sits 60 feet under the surface a few miles off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. (6/10)

Space Florida Announces Nano-Sat Launch Challenge Logo Design Contest (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida – the State of Florida’s aerospace economic development agency – has released a call for entries to the community to design a logo for the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge. Space Florida will keep the community updated on the progress of the contest and submission of the logos via its Facebook Business Page, and an album will host entries to the logo contest. Logos are to be submitted via email to Angelica DeLuccia, angelica@tntcommgroup.com, in .JPG or PDF format only. Logos are not to resemble the NASA logo in any form. The deadline for all logo submissions will be July 2, 2012 by 5:00 p.m. EDT. Click here. (6/11)

Omega Envoy Adds Florida Institute of Technology as Partner (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Omega Envoy, the Florida team competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), and its parent company, Earthrise Space Inc. (ESI), are proud to welcome Florida Institute of Technology as a new partner. Professors and students from Florida Tech will work in concert with Omega Envoy staff to design, analyze, build and test the team’s lunar spacecraft. Florida Tech will provide experimental facilities, such as the Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Laboratory, as well as computational facilities to achieve the final design of the lunar spacecraft.

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.

Joseph Palaia, Chief Operating Officer for ESI said, “We are excited to welcome Florida Tech as our latest university partner in the Omega Envoy project, augmenting the capabilities provided by our other university partners University of Central Florida and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. This allows us to reach even more Florida students who will benefit from participation in the project. We look forward to a long and rewarding collaboration.” (6/11)

Out of the Black (Source: Space Review)
Last week NASA announced the NRO was giving the space agency a pair of optical systems that could be used for future space telescopes. Dwayne Day explains how this donation is just the latest in a series of cooperative ventures between the two agencies that dates back to the early days of the Space Age. Visit
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2100/1 to view the article. (6/11)

NewSpace is in the American Tradition (Source: Space Review)
The recent successful SpaceX flight to the International Space Station comes during a time of debate about the role of the private sector in space exploration and development. Gary Oleson argues that SpaceX and other commercial "NewSpace" ventures are following a path that's been demonstrated to work throughout American history. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2099/1 to view the article. (6/11)

Sailing in the Wake of History (Source: Space Review)
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Pacific last week, concluding a historic test flight to the International Space Station. Stewart Money describes the parallels in exploration he sees between the Falcon 9/Dragon and a class of sailing vessels from half a millennium ago. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2095/1 to view the article. (6/4)

Human Space Exploration: Asteroids Versus the Moon? (Source: Space Review)
NASA's current space exploration plan calls for human missions to a near Earth asteroid by 2025, but do other countries want to cooperate? Jeff Foust reports on some support, both among the leaders of other space agencies as well as from former NASA officials, for a return to the Moon as humanity's next destination beyond Earth. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2094/1 to view the article. (6/4)

The Economics of Space Sustainability (Source: Space Review)
Most countries and organizations that use space agree on keeping space activities sustainable in light of growing concerns about space debris and collisions, but there's no consensus on how to achieve that. Brian Weeden discusses some new concepts on economic incentives to support space sustainability. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2093/1 to view the article. (6/4)

Is There a Future for Space-Based Solar Power? (Source: SpaceRef)
Space-based solar energy production systems, commonly known as 'Solar Power Satellites' or SPS's, offer the prospect of effective, environmentally friendly electrical power. However, experts involved in designing SPS systems agree that it will take at least ten years - but more likely decades - to develop SPS's capable of feeding the grid back on earth, as launch costs, unclear economic viability, and limited research funding slow the development of this potentially ground-changing energy technology.

But could a new wave of SPS designs bring space-based solar power closer to reality? Most SPS concepts involve launching solar cells and power storage systems into geosynchronous orbit, where the energy produced is converted into microwaves (or a laser beam) and beamed down to special stations on earth, where it is then converted into electricity. One possible solution to the technological and economic costs of using extremely heavy SPS systems would be to produce a modular system composed of lightweight, mass-produced parts. Click here. (6/11)

Orbital Science May Be Due For A Blastoff (Source: Seeking Alpha)
Orbital Science Corp. primarily produces rockets for space launch missions and target systems. They serve primarily the U.S Military and NASA. Orbital Science Corp. recently produced record revenues of $1.346 Billion. The company is under contract with NASA to launch their new Antares vehicle to resupply the International Space station. With rumors flying around that the government may make the bid for supplying the International Space Station non-competitive, Orbital Science Corp. needs to prove to everyone that they too can dock with the station. If they fail to do so, SpaceX may have just won the contract.

On the bright side, there is a ton of space for growth, literally and figuratively, in the Aerospace industry for companies with a specialty in rocketry. SpaceX's docking with the International Space Station has proved that private industry is not limited to ventures on the Earth. Asteroid mining is a very real, and very profitable venture which is not too far off in the horizon. Orbital Science Corp. is by no means a safe investment, but it does have potential to have a very high return for the investor with a sense of adventure and patience. (6/11)

Two Gift Telescopes Could Keep Hubble Program Alive (Source: Tulsa World)
By all accounts, the Hubble program was one of the most incredibly successful scientific instruments and missions in history. Without proper care, via the shuttle, the Hubble will go dark in the next couple of years. There is, however, a possible happy ending. Now two Hubble-class space telescopes (built as spy satellites for NRO) warehoused in Rochester, N.Y. have been given to NASA, for free.

But NASA's budget has been cut, so the astronomical community is trying to decide what to do with them. Whatever is finally decided, it is imperative that space missions continue. The United States has led the world in space exploration for decades. The Hubble program has made astonishing discoveries and has made the study of space cool again with its stunning photos. This is a gift that must not go unopened. (6/11)

Virgin Galactic Settles in New Mexico Before Moving into Space (Source: America Space)
As Virgin Galactic moves steadily closer to its goal of launching the first ticket-carrying passengers into suborbital space next year, the company is setting up the infrastructure it needs to make that happen. After years of operating out of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the company added a new office site as an official complement its operations at Spaceport America on June 7.

The company has already started drawing attention to itself and its New Mexico home. In October 2010, Virgin Galactic brought more than 70 high-end travel agents from around the world to learn about the areas surrounding Spaceport America. A year later, it hosted over 600 media, customers, and VIPs to commemorate the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Building. (6/11)

Globalstar Faces Loan Default in Wake of Thales Dispute, May Consider Bankruptcy (Source: Space News)
Satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space has notified the French export-credit agency, Coface, that mobile satellite services provider Globalstar faces a default on its Coface-backed loan that would lead Thales to stop work on six nearly completed Globalstar satellites scheduled for launch this fall, Globalstar said June 11.

The move could trigger a wider finding of default by Coface and the French banks whose loans it guaranteed, forcing Globalstar “to consider strategic alternatives, including … seeking protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code,” Globalstar said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (6/11)

Chinese Female Astronaut to Join Shenzhou-9 Docking Mission (Source: CNTV)
The rocket carrying the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft has been taken to its launch pad, according to the original plan, and is scheduled to take-off in mid June. One of the two female astronauts, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping, from the
Wuhan Flight Unit, will join Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission with Tiangong-1 spacecraft in mid-June. They are selected as members of the first batch of female astronauts in China because of their excellent flight skills and psychological quality. (6/11)

Editorial: Space Telescopes Magically Appear (Source: San Angelo Standard-Times)
NASA already has a mission waiting for the appropriate vehicle. In 2010, it identified as two of its top priorities locating extrasolar planets and studying the mysterious phenomenon of dark energy. The answer to those two problems has been sitting in a warehouse for the past decade. NASA says that getting one of the telescopes would cut $250 million off the cost of a mission started from scratch. True, Congress has its budget problems, but not allowing NASA to pursue its mission with these windfall telescopes would be a waste of money already spent and a further erosion of the nation's increasingly precarious lead in space exploration. (6/11)

Interview with George Whitesides of Virgin Galactic (Source: Breaking Travel News)
Last month, the developer of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital space tourism vehicle was granted U.S. regulatory approval to begin rocket-powered flight testing, bringing space travel a step closer to becoming a reality. Breaking Travel News catches up with George Whitesides, president and chief executive of Virgin Galactic to find out what this means for space tourism. Click here. (6/11)

Outer Space Among Unusual Destinations for Loved-Ones' Remains (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
He's orbiting the Earth right now. He's circling it every 90 minutes at 17,000 mph, 280 miles up. That's farther than the distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas - only sky high. Ever since he was a child, David Blinn Gorman's dream had been to travel in space. Now his dream has come true - in death, not life - thanks to his wife. Las Vegas resident Jennifer Gorman paid $1,500 to a Houston-based company to make sure a gram of her husband's ashes made the voyage.

Her husband, who worked in computer design in California's Silicon Valley, isn't alone up there. He joins more than 300 others. A few of them are fellow Las Vegans, including William F. Stonaker, a butcher who died in 2004 at age 57, and Fred N. Ozawa, a physician who passed away in 2009 at 62. They were all onboard SpaceX's recent Falcon 9 test launch, which sent a capsule to the International Space Station to pick up some old equipment and science supplies.

Right now, the ashes are in lipstick-sized capsules inside a container inside a canister that was permanently attached to a spacecraft now orbiting the Earth every hour and a half. In about a year, the space craft will burn up as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. And so will the ashes. "Kind of like a shooting star," Charles Chafer, CEO of Celestis Inc., said. The company charges between $1,000 and $12,000 per flight, depending on the amount of time spent in space and the weight of the ashes, he said. (6/11)

Lookin’ Good at 50: ULA Prepares for Landmark Launch (Source: America Space)
In the pre-dawn darkness of 18 June, United Launch Alliance (ULA) will conduct the 50th flight of its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), marking a significant milestone in an effort that began in the early 1990s as an Air Force initiative to develop a more reliable and affordable means of placing government payloads into orbit. When ULA’s venerable Atlas V booster blasts off from Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, it will deliver a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office and continue a proud record of achievement for a vehicle whose heritage stretches back over five decades. (6/11)

Senators are Working on Compromise Sequestration Plan (Source: The Hill)
A bipartisan group of about 30 senators is working behind the scenes on a compromise plan that could stave off sequestration defense cuts. And a new task force, led by former Sen. Pete Domenici, former National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones and former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, is working on its own alternative to sequestration, but is also meeting with the group of senators to look for alternative funding to halt the cuts. (6/11)

Layoffs, Canceled Orders May be Coming for Colorado Aerospace Business (Source: Denver Post)
Colorado's aerospace industry may see a slowdown this fall that results in job losses, lost orders and other cutbacks, experts say. Some say the slowdown already is under way. Colorado is home to major aerospace and military contractors and military installations. (6/11)

Mars Odyssey Gyroscope is Malfunctioning (Source: Washington Times)
The Mars Odyssey orbiter is on standby after NASA detected a problem with a gyroscope mechanism that keeps the spacecraft oriented. NASA engineers are working to fix the problem. "The spacecraft is safe, and information we've received from it indicates the problem is limited" to the gyroscope part, said NASA mission manager Chris Potts. (6/8)

NASA Gets Financial Help From UCF Students (Source: CFnews13)
NASA and the space program got some help Saturday from a bake sale. Students from the University of Central Florida’s Planetary Science group raised hundreds of dollars during a bake sale for NASA. NASA is facing a $300 million cut and students don't want to see that happen. So, they baked and sold "stellar star cookies" and "black hole cupcakes" to bring awareness to the issue.

After everything was gone, the students collected $237 dollars. That money will now be used to put on other awareness events. “This is all an investment in our future and our country and our high tech jobs and high tech innovation and it’s really important that NASA and the United States continue to lead in these areas, or else we will continue into decline and we know nobody wants that,” graduate student Laura Seward. (6/8)

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