June 18, 2012

NewSat Secures U.S. Export-Import Financing for Jabiru-1 (Source: Space News)
Startup Australian satellite operator NewSat Ltd. on June 18 said it had received preliminary U.S. Export-Import Bank approval for a direct loan valued at $280 million to finance the construction of the Jabiru-1 satellite. The company said this financing, coupled with an expected $100 million in backing from the French export-credit agency, Coface, will fully fund the construction and launch, in late 2014, of Jabiru-1. A condition of the financing is that NewSat must raise $200 million in new equity, which the company said it will do through an issue of new shares to shareholders. (6/18)

Florida, 2 Others Vie to Host New SpaceX Launchpad (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A record-breaking mission to the International Space Station has triggered another space race back on Earth, with Florida competing against Texas and Puerto Rico for the chance to land a new launchpad for SpaceX and its ambitious line of Falcon rockets. Florida officials note they have a track record of helping the company. Space Florida has invested more than $8.5 million so far to help establish the company at Cape Canaveral.

Frank DiBello, head of Space Florida, said the state intends to be "aggressively competitive" in landing the new launchpad — by offering financial incentives; one offer under consideration is converting a pad formerly used by the space shuttle at Kennedy Space Center into a facility for SpaceX. DiBello said he's also making a broader argument, that keeping its operations in one place would enable SpaceX to simplify its supply chain and lower its costs.

"We are going to try and make the case with those things that directly impact his business model and ease of operations," he said. DiBello said he's also trying to convince Musk to build a facility in Florida to reprocess the engines of his Falcon rockets. SpaceX hopes to eventually develop technology that would allow its rocket stages to steer themselves back to Earth to be used again, which can drive down costs. (6/18)

The Stacksat Saga, er, Story (Source: Space Review)
There is considerable interest today in using small satellites, or smallsats, to support military and other missions, but the Defense Department's interest in smallsats is hardly new. Dwayne Day describes the development of a smallsat program nearly a quarter-century ago than ran into a number of problems before ever getting off the ground. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2104/1 to view the article. (6/18)

And That's The Way It Was In Space (Source: Space Review)
Walter Cronkite was not only a popular evening news anchor, he was for many the de facto voice of spaceflight during the early Space Age thanks to his detailed coverage of NASA missions on CBS. Jeff Foust looks for insights into Cronkite's coverage of, and interest in, space contained in a new biography of the legendary journalist. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2103/1 to view the article. (6/18)

Feedback Loop: Science Fiction and Space as a Frontier (Source: Space Review)
For years science fiction author Allen Steele has offered his take on how humanity might spread out into the solar system and beyond. John Hickman talks to Steele for his thoughts on space settlement, governance, and the interplay between science fiction and fact. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2102/1 to view the article. (6/18)

Code of Conduct: Corrections, Updates, and Thoughts Going Forward (Source: Space Review)
In the latest update on the development of a code of conduct for outer space activities, Michael Listner corrects some earlier misconceptions about dueling code proposals and prospects for progress on development of an international code later this year. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2101/1 to view the article. (6/18)

Confirmation Hearing for FAA Head is Slated for This Week (Source: The Hill)
The Senate will consider the confirmation of Michael Huerta as Federal Aviation Administration administrator at a hearing this week. President Barack Obama appointed Huerta to a five-year term in March after he finished the term of former Administrator Randy Babbitt. Huerta has served as an assistant FAA administrator. (6/18)

NASA/FAA Agreement Advance National Goals in Commercial Human Space Transportation with Landmark Agreement (Source: NASA)
The FAA and NASA have signed an agreement to coordinate standards for commercial space travel of government and non-government astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). The two agencies will collaborate to expand efforts that provide a stable framework for the U.S. space industry, avoid conflicting requirements and multiple sets of standards, and advance both public and crew safety.

The agreement establishes policy for operational missions to the space station. Commercial providers will be required to obtain a license from the FAA for public safety. Crew safety and mission assurance will be NASA's responsibility. This approach allows both agencies to incorporate experience and lessons learned as progress is made. The policy established in the agreement clarifies for potential commercial providers the regulatory environment for operational missions to the orbiting laboratory

"The Obama administration recognizes the scientific, technological and economic benefits of maintaining the United States' leadership in space travel and exploration," said FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta."This agreement between the FAA and NASA continues and advances those vital national interests." Here's a graphic showing the relative sizes of different human spaceflight vehicles. (6/18)

NASA Studies Impact Threat From Asteroid (Source: SEN)
NASA is seeking to allay fears that a sizeable asteroid (2011 AG5) will collide with the Earth in 2040. A special international workshop attended by scientists and engineers has concluded that the chance of an impact is only one in 500. But astronomers will make detailed observations with giant telescopes and Hubble in space over the next two years and discussions have also centered on how the asteroid might be deflected if it is confirmed to be a threat.

The possibility of a collision was raised following the discovery of asteroid 2011 AG5 by an automatic camera on Mt Lemmon, Arizona, that is part of the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey, on January 8 last year. The space rock was estimated to be about 140 meters wide and would produce an explosion with the force of 11 megatons of energy if it should hit the Earth's southern hemisphere on its approach on February 5 2040. (6/17)

Rocket Launch Set for Thursday from Wallops Island (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
NASA will launch a Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket Thursday from the Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. The rocket will carry 17 educational experiments built by university instructors and students from across the country and were developed through programs conducted with the Colorado and Virginia and Space Grant Consortia. The launch will happen between 6 and 10 a.m. Backup launch days are Friday and Saturday. (6/17)

Thailand to Allow NASA Use of Navy Base (Source: Xinhua)
The Thai government will propose the cabinet meeting on Tuesday to approve NASA's request to utilize Thailand's U-Tapao navy base, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul unveiled on Monday. The foreign minister's remarks came after a meeting held by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Defence Minister ACM Sukhampol Suwannathat, as well as army, navy and air force chiefs earlier Monday.

Regarding the concerns that the matter shall be first proposed to the parliament for consideration in accordance with Article 190 of the Constitution, Surapong said the Council of State had already interpreted that it was not the case. NASA in March asked the Thai government for the permission to use U-Tapao as its base to conduct atmospheric studies in Southeast Asia during August and September this year. However, as Thailand was concerned about the territorial air space of its neighboring countries, NASA's request was not proceeded until June when all stakeholders had no objection. (6/17)

China Achieves First Manned Space Docking (Source: Wall Street Journal)
China successfully achieved its first manned space docking, an important step in the country's quest to launch a space station by around 2020. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft on Monday docked with China's Tiangong-1 space laboratory. China's political leadership has heavily promoted the mission as proof of the country's growing clout. Additionally, the Shenzhou-9 mission reinforced China's long-term aspirations for a manned space presence just as the U.S. has significantly drawn down its own manned space program and retired its aging fleet of space shuttles. Here's video inside Tiangong-1. (6/17)

Space Economy to Boom in China (Source: China Daily)
The successful launch of the Shenzhou Ⅸ spacecraft indicates China's economic infrastructure and technology have made great progress and the country is ready to explore aerospace economy. The aerospace economy boasts unusually wide industry range, containing almost every industry from energy, steel, new materials, electronics, machinery, and communications to space clothing and space food, which involve the textiles, garment processing, agricultural products and food processing industries.

The achievements resulting from space technology development can be widely applied to other sectors of the economy, and thereby trigger innovation in these sectors, the report said. According to a report by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, 80 percent of the more than 1,000 types of new material developed in China in recent years benefited from space technology, and nearly 2,000 kinds of space technology have been adopted in various sectors of the national economy. (6/17)

Slow Going for India's Human Spaceflight Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
ISRO’s overall performance with spaceflight has been plagued by technological failures and program slips. My best guess is that if ISRO had seriously started on a human program back in 2009, they’d be running three years behind schedule by now. The main problem is that ISRO has no rockets capable of lifting astronauts into orbit. In fact, the space agency can’t even launch medium-sized spacecraft reliably. ISRO’s largest rocket, GSLV, has placed three satellites into Bay of Bengal, two spacecraft into lower-than-planned orbits, and only two other payloads into their proper orbits.

ISRO has managed only seven launches in 11 years, which is hardly an aggressive schedule. By the time the next GSLV flies in December, two years will have passed since the the rocket’s most recent flight, which was a failure. Meanwhile, development of the much larger GLSV-Mark III, which could carry astronauts, is moving very slowly. It is scheduled for its first test flight this year, but the schedule shows a long gap before the next one.

A nation that hasn’t mastered liquid-fuel rocket technology has little business going forward with an aggressive human spaceflight program. It’s easy to imagine that the bureaucrats and politicians who formulate India’s overall budget looked at ISRO’s record and decided not to give the green light for such an expensive and complex program. For India to truly join the ranks of the world’s major space powers, it has to be able to access space on a regular basis with something more powerful than the solid-fuel PSLV rocket. (6/17)

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