June 27, 2012

White House Responds to NASA Funding Petition (Source: SPACErePORT)
In response to a "We The People" online petition asking the President to increase NASA's budget to one percent of the federal budget, the White House issued a response that highlights President Obama's support for NASA programs and budget, yet doesn't directly address the call for increased funding. The response does explain how President Obama has shielded NASA's budget from cuts, pointing out that the proposed Republican House budget plan "would significantly cut NASA's budget, forcing the deepest cuts to the space program since just after we landed on the Moon." Click here. (6/27)

How Serious Must an Asteroid Threat Have to Be Before We Take Action? (Source: iO9)
Just how serious does an asteroid impact risk have to be, before we should do something about it? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. When you assess the potential risks posed by a nearby asteroid, you need to consider a whole host of factors, including the probability of impact (which is complicated by our constantly changing estimates), the size of the asteroid (which determines the scope of damage), and the estimated date of collision (the farther away in time, the less we have to worry right now).

But there's yet another factor, one that's a bit tougher to quantify: How do we assess a catastrophic risk based on sheer probability? And more to the point, given that we will soon have the means to do something about asteroids, under what circumstances should we not act? Thankfully, NASA's NEO program is in place to help us evaluate these sorts of threats and alert us to when we might need to respond. This group keeps a regularly updated list of all current threats spanning the next one hundred years. (6/27)

CASIS Sigs Deal For Golf Equipment Research on Space Station (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with COBRA PUMA GOLF to carry out materials research projects on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory for use in its sporting goods products line. COBRA PUMA GOLF will conduct research on materials aimed at enhancing its products. Composite materials play a critical role in the golf industry, where lightweight and high strength – yet elastic – properties are desirable.

On Earth, gravity can cause irregularities during material manufacturing, which affect certain properties of materials. The microgravity environment provides a research platform where gravity effects are no longer present, allowing researchers to understand chemical and thermodynamic processes to selectively tailor new material properties. As a result of the agreement, COBRA PUMA GOLF will become the first company bestowed with the “Space Is In It” endorsement, which will be carried by all COBRA PUMA GOLF products derived from research on Station. (6/27)

Virgin Galactic to Launch New Cargo Plan, Spaceship Design (Source: Space.com)
A new initiative could be on the horizon for suborbital spaceship company Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Branson is expected to announce Virgin Galactic Cargo, a renewed effort to launch small satellites commercially, and reveal design changes to his tourism spacecraft SpaceShipTwo (SS2) at the U.K.'s Farnborough International Airshow next month.

Virgin Galactic Cargo could see an unmanned rocket, air launched by SS2's carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), carry satellites weighing up to 440 pounds (200 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit for a price tag of $1 million to $2 million. This was Virgin Galactic's plan when it announced in July 2009 a small satellite launcher project along with a $280 million investment in the spaceline by Abu Dhabi investment company Aabar. Aabar agreed to invest $110 million in the small satellite launcher project if it was found to be feasible.

However, in October 2010, the project, then named LauncherOne, went into a hiatus after Virgin Galactic's one U.K.-based staffer working on it full-time left. A Farnborough announcement of a renewed effort 22 months later was hinted at recently by Virgin Galactic's commercial director Stephen Attenborough. In answers to Royal Aeronautical Society audience members, Attenborough denied that Virgin Galactic Cargo would provide WK2 for third parties to launch their own rockets from. Click here. (6/27)

Mica, Adams Joust in Straw Poll (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
U.S. Reps. John Mica and Sandy Adams don’t like each other — make that, really don’t like each other — and it becomes more clear every day that their Aug. 14 Republican primary for primacy in redrawn Congressional District 7 is going to be very nasty. Today’s example: Mica, the 10-term veteran who’s represented all or most of the Seminole County-focused district during his time in Washington. sent out a release trumpeting his 229-157 straw poll victory last night at the East Side Regional Hob Nob.

Mica’s released noted that the location was “in the core of our opponents’ voter base” — Adams lives near Oviedo — and came a week after a similar victory at a straw poll hosted by the Seminole County Republican Executive Committee. “Our recent success is a direct result of the growing support for Mica’s campaign based on record, not rhetoric,” his release read. Not so fast, retorted the Adams campaign, claiming that Mica's campaign purchased a large number of tickets to secure straw poll votes.

Editor's Note: Nicholas Ruiz won the straw poll for Democratic voters. Adams is a tea party favorite and freshman in Congress who won her seat in 2010 by ousting freshman incumbent U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas. Mica is a Congressional veteran who chairs the powerful transportation committee. The district they hope to represent abuts the northern border of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and will include many spaceport workers. (6/27)

Arianespace to Launch DZZ-HR High-Resolution Observation Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
Arianespace and Astrium France have signed the launch service and solutions contract for the DZZ-HR satellite. The DZZ-HR high-resolution observation satellite is being built by Astrium for the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Weighing 900 kg at launch, the DZZ-HR satellite will be launched by Arianespace's Vega light launcher into a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 750 km. It will be launched from the Guiana Space Center, French Guiana, in the second quarter of 2014. (6/27)

Appetite for Commercial Aerospace Mergers & Acquisitions Undiminished (Source: AIN)
An extremely positive outlook for the commercial aerospace industry is driving strong mergers and acquisitions activity, according to Michael Richter, managing director of the aerospace and defense group at financial advisor and asset manager Lazard. In his view, companies and investors gravitate toward strong equity performance, revenues from healthy order backlogs and the perceived opportunity to enter markets during the early stage of an up-cycle.

Despite the mounting prospect of another full-blown financial crisis in Europe and diminished airline profitability in many regions, Richter told AIN that companies throughout the aerospace supply chain have benefitted from the increased aircraft build rates announced by Airbus and Boeing last year. Meanwhile, he said, the market has taken solace in an apparent end to the uncertainty surrounding the troubled Boeing 787 program and now seeks to capitalize on opportunities presented by the new A320 neo and Boeing 737 Max narrowbodies. (6/27)

Aerospace Industry Competes for Engineers (Source: AFP)
Aerospace companies of the world are in cut-throat competition to recruit engineers. There is a worldwide shortage of people with the qualifications needed by the companies gearing up to meet demand for an estimated 20,000 aircraft in the next 20 years. Tom Enders, who has just switched from the top management of Airbus to manage the parent group EADS, said that "the pool of talents in Europe at least has clearly become too small". Airbus says that of 12,000 jobs available in the sector in Europe last year, only 9,000 were filled.

At US aircraft maker Boeing, the vice president for human resources Rick Stephens said that the United States produced 72,000 to 74,000 engineering graduates a year but "we don't see enough students completing engineering degrees to be able to fill what we believe will be the needs" of the aerospace industry. (6/27)

Seminar at Embry-Riddle Focuses on U.S.-Europe Air Traffic Control (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Educators and business leaders from nine countries are at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University this week sharing ideas on how to improve air traffic control in the United States and Europe. The first International Conference for Interdisciplinary Science for Air Traffic Management is meeting through Wednesday and includes researchers from the United States, Canada, France, Great Britain, India, Japan, Netherlands, Spain and Thailand.

Thirty-six people are attending the conference on the Daytona Beach campus that involves gathering theories to share about developing an entirely new air traffic control system intended to increase safety, efficiency and capacity. In the United States, the new system is called NextGen -- the Next Generation Air Transportation System, which is being implemented in phases by 2025 and will transform an antiquated 1950s ground-based radar system to a satellite-based surveillance and navigation system. (6/27)

New “Flying Tea Kettle” Could Get Us To Mars in Weeks, Not Months (Source: Universe Today)
At 54.6 million km away at its closest, the fastest travel to Mars from Earth using current technology (and no small bit of math) takes around 214 days — that’s about 30 weeks, or 7 months. A robotic explorer like Curiosity may not have any issues with that, but it’d be a tough journey for a human crew. Developing a quicker, more efficient method of propulsion for interplanetary voyages is essential for future human exploration missions… and right now a research team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville is doing just that.

This summer, UAHuntsville researchers, partnered with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Boeing, are laying the groundwork for a propulsion system that uses powerful pulses of nuclear fusion created within hollow 2-inch-wide “pucks” of lithium deuteride. And like hockey pucks, the plan is to “slapshot” them with plasma energy, fusing the lithium and hydrogen atoms inside and releasing enough force to ultimately propel a spacecraft — an effect known as “Z-pinch”.

“If this works,” said Dr. Jason Cassibry, an associate professor of engineering at UAH, “we could reach Mars in six to eight weeks instead of six to eight months.” The key component to the UAH research is the Decade Module 2 — a massive device used by the Department of Defense for weapons testing in the 90s. Delivered last month to UAH (some assembly required) the DM2 will allow the team to test Z-pinch creation and confinement methods for in-space propulsion. (6/26)

China Says it Has Spent $6 Billion on Human Spaceflight (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
China has spent about $6 billion on its manned space program since 1992, and about half that figure went toward developing advanced capabilities for rendezvous and docking. The declaration was a rare public disclosure of the cost of China's human space program, which is run by a division of the People's Liberation Army. China's crewed space effort, codenamed Project 21, formally began in 1992. The country's first human space mission launched in 2003. (6/27)

Shouldn't We Expect More From the Next Generation? (Source: TC Palm)
Everyone seems excited over the success of SpaceX's Dragon capsule. But let's look at the regressive history Dragon represents. Our first manned spaceflight was Freedom 7, which carried American astronaut Alan Shepard to an altitude of just more than 116 miles in 1961. Twenty years later, in 1981, we entered the era of the Space Shuttle. It was the only winged manned spacecraft to have achieved orbit and then returned to land like an airplane. These space vehicles were a source of great national pride. They still are.

Shouldn't we have developed an alternative way to get to the space station before we retired our space shuttles? Why couldn't we have continued using these magnificent machines until we developed suitable 21st century replacements — and saved a lot of jobs in the process. Just as relevant, why didn't we start building replacement vehicles 10 years ago? What happened to our national pride in the space program? Where were the scientists with a vision for the future? Regrettably these are now moot questions.

Doesn't Dragon bear a close resemblance to our early space capsules? And in the 21st century shouldn't we be able to do better than to drop our astronauts into the ocean? A "Dragon 2.0" spacecraft is expected to do propulsive soft landings, but that is a distant dream. I'm as thrilled as the next person about regaining our national dominance in space, but I was expecting something a bit grander than a large bullet shot into space and parachuted into the Pacific Ocean again. (6/27)

Space-Bound Orion Capsule to Arrive in Florida Next Week (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Lockheed Martin Corp. is preparing to ship the pressure shell for the first space-bound Orion capsule from a Louisiana factory to the Kennedy Space Center, where it will be readied for liftoff on an orbital test flight in 2014. Technicians at Lockheed Martin's Michoud plant in New Orleans completed the final weld on the Orion spacecraft's core structure Thursday. Arrival at the Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for July 2. (6/27)

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