June 14, 2012

Test of Spare Wheel Puts Orbiter on Path to Recovery (Source: NASA JPL)
In a step toward returning NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter to full service, mission controllers have tested a spare reaction wheel on the spacecraft for potential use with two other reaction wheels in adjusting and maintaining the spacecraft's orientation. After more than 11 years of non-operational storage, the spare reaction wheel passed preliminary tests on Wednesday, June 12, spinning at up to 5,000 rotations per minute forward and backward.

Odyssey engineers plan to substitute it for a reaction wheel they have assessed as no longer reliable. That wheel stuck for a few minutes last week, causing Odyssey to put itself into safe mode on June 8, Universal Time (June 7, Pacific Time). Safe mode is a precautionary status with reduced activity. "If the assessment results are positive, this will put us on a path toward resuming full use of Odyssey," said Gaylon McSmith of JPL. (6/14)

Tapping the Riches of Space (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Is there really wealth among the stars? Can we tap raw materials in space for exploration and profit? That far-off-sounding question is starting to get some serious attention. Earlier this year, Seattle-based startup Planetary Resources, Inc. (PRI), announced that its group of tech and entertainment investors was backing a serious, decade-long campaign to extract precious metals and other resources from asteroids. In early June, The Wall Street Journal discussed which terrestrial minerals might run short in this century, and whether we could profitably find new supplies in space.

NASA has an ongoing interest in what’s called in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU. Jerry Sanders from NASA’s Johnson Space Center said that the agency has developed a robot processor that can break down lunar soils and extract oxygen for use in life support and as a rocket propellant. Sanders says that it doesn’t take a huge refinery to do this. A device the size of a lawnmower, processing just 4 cups of soil per minute, will produce 10 metric tons of oxygen annually. NASA has already put a prototype of the oxygen processor through its paces in Hawaii. Click here. (6/14)

Is It Time to Return to the Moon? (Source: Universe Today)
Humans haven’t set foot on the Moon — or any other world outside of our own, for that matter — since Cernan and Schmitt departed the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. That will make 40 years on that date this coming December. And despite dreams of moon bases and lunar colonies, there hasn’t even been a controlled landing there since the Soviet Luna 24 sample return mission in 1976 (not including impacted probes.) So in light of the challenges and costs of such an endeavor, is there any real value in a return to the Moon? Some scientists are saying yes. Click here. (6/14)

Air Force Satellite Will Launch From Virginia in 2014 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) has been selected by the United States Air Force as its launch location in late 2014 for its ORS-4 satellite aboard a Minotaur launch vehicle to be provided by Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC). This launch will be from MARS Launch Pad 0-B which has been constructed to accommodate solid-fueled rockets. The pad has hosted several previous orbital launches and has two on the pad manifest in 2013. (6/14)

Orbital Sciences Won't Restate Financial Results (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Virginia-based satellite and launch rocket maker Orbital Sciences Corp. says the Securities and Exchange Commission has completed a review of its financial reporting, and it will not be required to restate results. In December, the SEC requested information related to Orbital's accounting for its contract with NASA to supply cargo to the International Space Station, specifically the timing of revenue recorded. Orbital had $20.3 million in first quarter 2012 revenue, up 6 percent from a year earlier. Net income rose to $13 million, from $12.3 million. (6/14)

ESA Agrees To Press Ahead with 2013 Sentinel Launch (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) on June 14 agreed to proceed with the launch of the Sentinel 1A environmental satellite in late 2013 following an indication — but no commitment — from the European Commission that it will consider operating the satellite and a fleet of others like it. The 19-nation ESA will immediately begin negotiations with Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium to secure a three-month launch window for Sentinel 1A starting in October 2013. The satellite will be launched aboard a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. (6/14)

ESA Agrees To Fund ExoMars Until Year's End (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) agreed June 14 to provide another tranche of funding for its ExoMars robotic mission to Mars with Russia, keeping the mission on life support until the end of the year. The decision by ESA’s ruling council, which met June 13-14 at the agency’s headquarters here, will inject about 80 million euros ($104 million) into the project, succeeding a three-month tranche of 64 million euros that runs out in late June. (6/14)

Large Asteroid Will Hurtle Past Earth Thursday Night (Source: USA Today)
Cosmically speaking, Earth is about to get a surprise buzz from a nearby asteroid. The innocuously named 2012 LZ1 will hurtle by Earth tonight 3.35 million miles away, about 14 times farther away than the moon. The asteroid is between 1,000 and 2,300 feet wide, roughly two to four times the size of the Washington Monument. That's big enough to do serious damage, but not big enough to end life on earth as we know it. (6/14)

How NASA Chose its Ride to the Moon (Source: Discovery)
It's probably one of the least known space race anniversaries, but this month marks the 50th anniversary of NASA's selection of lunar orbit rendezvous for the Apollo Program. This one decision shaped the way the whole program looked. We're all used to seeing pictures from the Apollo Program with astronauts standing in front of spidery lunar modules; the small craft took two men to the surface while a third waited in orbit. It's a mission mode called "lunar orbit rendezvous," and it was never NASA's first choice when it considered how to get men to the moon. Click here. (6/14)

Atlas to Launch Spy Satellite on Jun. 18 at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Weather forecasters are predicting good conditions to launch the Atlas 5 rocket on its classified satellite-deployment mission for the National Reconnaissance Office on Monday morning. Liftoff will be possible during a window of 8:26 to 9:25 a.m. EDT, the Air Force announced. (6/14)

Senate Hearing to Focus on Commercial Space Oversight (Source: U.S. Senate)
The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space will hold a hearing on June 20 on the “Risks, Opportunities, and Oversight of Commercial Space.” This hearing will examine the commercial space industry, its role in the nation’s space program, and its contribution to U.S. global competitiveness. The hearing will also review progress of commercial efforts to transport cargo and crew to the International Space Station which are key components of the overall approach to U.S. human space flight established by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Click here. (6/14)

Teledyne to Develop Space-Based Digital Imaging Capability (Source: SpaceRef)
Teledyne Brown Engineering was awarded a Cooperative Agreement by NASA to foster the commercial utilization of the International Space Station. Teledyne Brown will develop the Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES), an Earth imaging platform, as part of the company's new commercial space-based digital imaging business. MUSES is designed to host earth-looking instruments, such as high-resolution digital cameras, and provide precision pointing and other accommodations. It can host up to four instruments simultaneously and offers the ability to change, upgrade, and robotically service those instruments. (6/14)

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Weathered Flight Well, Officials Say (Source: AP)
Space Exploration Technologies' Dragon capsule is "almost untouched" after its historic flight to the International Space Station, said CEO Elon Musk this week. Musk and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden have visited the capsule, and Bolden praised the spacecraft, the first commercial cargo supply vessel to be sent to the space station. (6/14)

United Technologies Aerospace Unit to Create 325 Jobs in Charlotte (Source: Charlotte Business Journal)
United Technologies Corp. plans to place its combined Aerospace Systems headquarters in Charlotte following the completion of its acquisition of Goodrich Corp. (and its sale of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne). The move will create 325 jobs covering a range of functions, including executive teams, engineering, operations, supply chain, quality control, customer service, business development and strategy. Salaries will vary by job function, but the average annual compensation for the majority of the positions will exceed $100,000. The Mecklenburg County average annual wage is $51,792. (6/14)

Georgia Tries to Save its Military Bases (Source: Florida Times Union)
Business and community leaders from across Georgia are meeting today in Albany to plot defensive strategies for fending off action by Washington to cut or close the state’s military installations. While no new round of base closings has been announced, military leaders expect one in the next few years based on previous rounds that came about every four years. The last, in 2005, resulted in Georgia losing the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens, the Naval Air Station in Marietta and the Army’s Fort Gillem/Fort McPherson headquarters/supply complex in Atlanta. (6/14)

Defense Layoff Threats Put Congress on Notice (Source: Politico)
Facing economic uncertainty, defense contractors are plotting to spur Congress to nix the automatic budget cuts set to begin next year. The plan? Threaten to send out layoff notices — hundreds of thousands of them, right before Election Day. Congress, industry leaders contend, has left them few options. Federal law, they say, requires employers to give notice of 60 days to workers facing layoffs.

For President Barack Obama and congressional incumbents, the timing couldn’t be worse. With the automatic cuts, called sequestration, set to begin taking effect on Jan. 2, the layoff notices would have to be sent out by Nov. 2 — four days before this fall’s elections. “I’ve been told by some of our major employers that layoff notices are going to come before the election,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a member of the Armed Services Committee and a vocal critic of the automatic cuts. “It’s dangerous and irresponsible for Congress to play with this.” (6/14)

Space Pioneer's Career Spanned History of NASA (Source: Florida Today)
Space industry pioneer Sam Beddingfield, whose career spanned from Project Mercury to the shuttle program, died Wednesday. Beddingfield, who lived in Titusville, joined NASA in 1959 at the urging of Gus Grissom, whom he’d flown with at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Grissom became one of the seven original Mercury astronauts, and he thought Beddingfield, an aeronautical engineer, should work in the space industry, too.

As the story goes, Beddingfield said, “I don’t know anything about space,” recalled Charlie Mars, president of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation. Grissom apparently replied: “Nobody else does, either.” Beddingfield came to Florida, starting work at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in 1959. At the time, NASA had 33 employees. All were assigned ID numbers. Beddingfield’s: No. 4. (6/14)

Home on The Range (Source: ERAU)
Col. Janet Grondin--a 1989 Embry-Riddle graduate--has a daunting task before her: modernize and sustain the more than 300 systems that make up the nation's Eastern and Western Launch and Test Ranges. Add to this a limited budget, equipment that dates back to NASA's Apollo Program, and the need for little to no systems downtime, and the challenges multiply. Grondin is commander of the U.S. Air Force's Spacelifht Range Division, overseeing the range system acquisition and sustainment efforts at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Fortunately, she's not alone. Grondin discovered quickly that two fellow Embry-Riddle alumni are in key positions on her team, including 1994 graduate Brian Laird and 1993 graduate Eric Hoffman. Laird is a DOD civil servant and Hoffman works for Booz Allen Hamilton. "It was ironic." Hoffman says. "You've got three Embry-Riddle engineering graduates who graduated within five years of each other in senior positions...all working on the same project. Click here. (6/14)

Is China Catching the U.S. in Space? (Source: Space Politics)
While the coming launch of the Chinese Shenzhou-9 crewed capsule to rendezvous with the Tiangong-1 orbiting lab may fuel concern among some that the U.S. is falling behind China in space, two recent policy documents put the Chinese advances in context. the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on China’s military capabilities suggests that the country’s space programs “are facing some challenges in systems reliability,” citing last year’s failure of a Long March 2C launch and recent problems with the DFH-4 communications satellite platform.

“China’s Evolving Space Capabilities: Implications for U.S. Interests,” a paper prepared by the Project 2049 Institute for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, says “China’s relative advances are significant” and its leaders “view space as a national priority and therefore direct significant resources toward the country’s space-related technology base,” but notes that China faces possible coordination issues because space policy is spread out among numerous government entities. Click here. (6/14)

Economists Value NASA's Global Solar And Meteorological Data Services At Up To $790 Million (Source: SpaceRef)
A report prepared for the NASA Applied Science Program and authored by economists at The Brattle Group finds that the use of NASA's solar and meteorological data services has greatly contributed to the U.S. and international goals of achieving greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources. The study, which was presented today at a workshop hosted by IEEE's Committee on Earth Observation, finds the economic value of the datasets to be between $79 million and $790 million worldwide, with higher ranges possible.

NASA engaged The Brattle Group to evaluate the socioeconomic value of its publicly-available satellite and modeled-derived data services, specifically the Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy (SSE) and Prediction of Worldwide Energy Resource (POWER) datasets. Brattle's review of the datasets, combined with a number of expert user interviews, indicate that solar and meteorological data are utilized by the energy industry in several ways. The most significant application of the data is in the assessment of the potential value of proposed renewable power project sites and the evaluation of the performance of existing renewable power generation projects.

The second important application focuses on analyzing and benchmarking the energy consumption levels of residential and commercial buildings. "Based on these six areas of benefits associated with the SSE and POWER datasets and the initial estimates of economic value, we find that NASA's datasets and data services offer significant value in the renewable and energy efficiency fields," said Judy Chang." (6/14)

Made-in-Ottawa Moon Rover Gets U.S. Coming-Out Party (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
Canada’s brand new made-in-Ottawa lunar rover was previewed for American eyes only this week, as the Canadian Space Agency and NASA showed off Artemis Jr. to U.S. media. Never publicly unveiled in Canada, the four-wheeled rover is designed to help astronauts find water on the moon, on a future NASA mission or with the European Space Agency.

It’s built by a group of companies, with Ottawa’s Neptec Design Group as the prime contractor. The remote-controlled prototype is on its way to Hawaii, where it will be tested halfway up a volcano in steep, rocky, moon-like conditions. The rover is designed to look for and dig up soil rich in hydrogen near the moon’s north or south pole. Lunar soil is also rich in oxygen, so if future astronauts can extract both hydrogen and oxygen they can make their own water. (6/14)

Scientists Find Small Earth-Like Planets More Common Than Realized (Source: NY Daily News)
The potential for life developing elsewhere in our galaxy is apparently greater than we realized. Scientists analyzing data captured by NASA’s Kepler space telescope have determined that smaller, Earth-like planets are more common than previously thought - increasing the odds that some of them have the necessary preconditions to allow for life. Previously, it was believed that planets of that size required stars rich in heavy elements like iron and silicon to form - much as gas giants such as Jupiter do.

Buchhave’s team studied more than 226 planets smaller than Neptune orbiting 150 stars in the Milky Way and found that they developed in a wide range of conditions. They discovered that these planets could even develop around stars with lower metallicity than our sun. (6/14)

China Develops New Rocket Engine (Source: Xinhua)
China announced Thursday that it has developed a new engine for its new generation of carrier rockets, making it the second in the world to harness such engine technologies. The 120-ton liquid oxygen/kerosene high-pressure staged combustion cycle engine will provide an effective guarantee for the country's manned space and lunar probe missions, said the State Administration of Science,Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The high-performance engine is non-toxic, pollution-free and reliable. It boasts 120 tonnes of thrust, making it much more powerful than the 75-ton-thrust engines of launch vehicles for the already-launched Shenzhou spacecraft, but still far from the 670 tons of thrust the United States' F-1 engine boasts, and farther still from 740 tons of thrust of Russia's RD-170 engine.

It is the first kind of high-pressure staged combustion cycle engine for which China has proprietary intellectual property rights, said the administration. It also makes China the second country in the world, after Russia, to grasp the core technologies for a liquid oxygen/kerosene high-pressure staged combustion cycle rocket engine. (6/14)

Perry, SpaceX Chief Discuss Spaceport in Texas (Source: UT San Diego)
Texas is interested in a company's plans to build a space launch site in the state. A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry says Wednesday's meeting went well with Perry and SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk. She says they discussed Perry's commitment to finding a suitable launch site in Texas. Spokeswoman Lucy Nashed says having a site in Texas would be a natural fit since SpaceX already has its rocket factory near Waco. Musk said earlier Wednesday that South Texas is the leading candidate for a launch site for the company. (6/14)

The Crazy DIY Spaceflight Project That Just Might Work (Source: WIRED)
In May 2008, two men climbed into a 40-ton submarine docked at an abandoned Copenhagen shipyard. One of the men had built the 58-foot-long sub in his spare time, and inside they chatted about the future. It involved rockets — big rockets. Although it was the first meeting between Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, the submarine‘s creator, the duo emerged with a daring plan: to launch themselves into suborbital space using custom-built contraptions. And with that, Copenhagen Suborbitals was born.

Co-founders von Bengtson, an aerospace scientist and former NASA contractor, and Madsen, an entrepreneur and aerospace engineer, have a lot to be proud of since they founded their non-profit space program four years ago. In June 2011, for example, Copenhagen Suborbital’s army of volunteers successfully built, launched and recovered a 31-foot-tall rocket — the largest “amateur” launcher ever built — with a crash-test dummy tucked inside. Click here. (6/14)

Russian Space Industry Reviving (Source: The Trumpet)
Russia’s space agency submitted a proposal to its government outlining a new space exploration plan on Wednesday. The proposal is an ambitious bid to keep Russia as one of the world’s top three space powers. Since 2011, Russia has suffered a string of failures in its space industry, including the loss of three Glonass navigation satellites and the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe. There was also the failed launch of a Progress cargo ship.

The strategy aims to wipe the past away. It prioritizes a step-by-step modernization of the space industry, the development of a new space vehicle and the exploration of the moon and Mars. The country is already collaborating with China and the EU to carry out the Mars-500 project, which simulated flying to and landing on the red planet. According to a Reuters report, from 2005 to 2010, Russia increased space spending by around 40 percent year on year.

The plan does have its critics, but if the plan is accepted it will give Russia a boost of prestige. Space programs aren’t cheap and don’t return much economic fruit; however, they have been used by national governments to demonstrate power and prestige. That America’s own space program is facing major financial cutbacks while Russia, China and the EU are ramping up theirs says a lot about America’s power. (6/14)

Lockheed Poised To Snatch ViaSat Order from Loral (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband hardware and services provider ViaSat Inc. is in final negotiations with Lockheed Martin on the purchase of a Ka-band satellite to back up and extend the coverage of ViaSat’s ViaSat-1 satellite, with a contract announcement expected in the coming weeks. One industry official said the two companies have not excluded the possibility of a contract for two Ka-band satellites, each smaller than ViaSat-1, instead of a single spacecraft.

Lockheed Martin in 2011 won a contract with NewSat of Australia to build the Jabiru-1 commercial telecommunications satellite, which has mainly a Ka-band payload. The ViaSat deal would also signal a kind of revenge for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company thought it had won the $300 million ViaSat-1 order in 2007. In fact it had, according to ViaSat. (6/14)

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