June 29, 2012

Delta IV Takes Flight with Secret Satellite (Source: Florida Today)
A classified spy satellite is on its way to orbit after a 9:15 a.m. blastoff from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket. Liftoff from Launch Complex 37 came after three aborted attempts earlier in the morning, the first at 6:13 a.m., due to a faulty battery voltage reading and issues with two propellant valves. But a patient United Launch Alliance team resolved each problem and pulled off the launch several hours into the window on a perfectly clear morning. (6/29)

SPG Seeks to Demonstrate a New Approach to Hybrid Rocket Motors (Source: NewSpace Journal)
When you think of hybrid engines, what typically comes to mind is the hybrid rocket motor developed for SpaceShipOne that powered it to the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE in 2004, and its larger successor, RocketMotorTwo, under development today for SpaceShipTwo. Both those hybrid motors use a combination of liquid nitrous oxide and solid hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) as propellants. Beyond that application, though, hybrids have seen little use in launch systems.

A small California company hopes to demonstrate an alternative hybrid engine technology that it believes addresses some of the issues associated with more conventional hybrid motors. Space Propulsion Group (SPG) plans to test-fire a motor 56 centimeters (22 inches) in diameter at its test site in Montana. The key difference between SPG’s motor and other hybrids is the choice of propellants. SPG uses liquid oxygen for its oxidizer and paraffin for its solid fuel. This retains a key advantage of hybrids—-safety-—but offers solutions to a couple of issues with more convention hybrids.

One such issue is their low “regression rate”, or the rate at which solid fuel burns away. They have also tweaked the design of the motor to address low-frequency instabilities, another issue with hybrids. Using paraffin also has cost advantages. “The advantage of the paraffin is that it’s dirt cheap,” Karabeyoglu said. “You can’t find anything cheaper than that. It’s actually less expensive than gasoline.” (6/29)

China to Bolster International Cooperation in Manned Space Program (Source: Xinhua)
China will boost cooperation with other nations and regions in its manned space program in order to promote the development of global space technology. Wang Zhaoyao, director of China's manned space program office, said the country will continue to bolster international cooperation "with a positive and open stance."

Wang said future cooperation will focus on technological exchanges, collaborative science experiments, responding to the United Nations' call to share technology with other countries and allowing Chinese professionals to work with their international peers in training and research. "The purpose of China's manned space program is the peaceful use of the space and common development of humankind," said Wang. (6/29)

China Competes with No One in Space Program (Source: Xinhua)
China is not competing with other countries with its space program, said Wang Zhaoyao, director of China's manned space program office. Wang made the remarks at a press conference after three astronauts returned from the country's first manned space docking.

"We are not aiming to catch up and surpass other countries, nor to compete with anybody else. We just develop the program based on our own needs," Wang said, in response to a question on whether China has the ambition to become the world's leader in space program. "China's space program is developing steadily as scheduled and planned by the government," he said. (6/29)

China's Aerospace Investment Benefits Other Areas (Source: Xinhua)
China's massive investment in its manned space program has brought benefits to a variety of other sectors. Wang Zhaoyao said the country's 39-billion-yuan (6.19 billion U.S. dollars) aerospace investment has helped China grasp basic space technology and boosted the development of its aerospace industry. Investment has largely been directed toward research and development, sample development and covering the costs of experiments, Wang said.

The manned space program has earned more than 900 national patents and technological awards, helping to promote research in relevant scientific sectors, Wang said. The program has strengthened the development of some sectors and supported innovation and industrial upgrades in others, he added. Four hundred technologies developed through the space program have been applied in the education, mining and health care sectors, Wang said. (6/29)

GenCorp Announces Second-Quarter Results (Source: GenCorp)
Net sales for the second quarter of fiscal 2012 increased to $249.9 million compared to $229.9 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2011. Net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2012 was $1.7 million, compared to a net income of $0.0 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2011. (6/29)

Echostar XVII Ready for Next Ariane 5 Flight (Source: Broadband TV News)
The EchoStar XVII telecommunications platform has joined its MSG-3 co-passenger on Arianespace’s third Ariane 5 for launch in 2012, set for a July 5 lift-off from the Spaceport in French Guiana. Encapsulated in its ogive-shaped payload fairing, EchoStar XVII was lowered into place over the MSG-3 meteorological satellite – which was installed atop Ariane 5’s cryogenic core stage earlier in the week.

The latest integration activity was performed inside the Spaceport’s launch vehicle Final Assembly Building. With this new milestone, the Ariane 5’s dual payload “stack” has now been completed, clearing the way for final steps that will include functional tests, launch rehearsal and launch vehicle arming – followed by a readiness review and rollout to the Spaceport’s launch zone for an evening liftoff on July 5. (6/29)

New Launch Date Confirmed for Metop-B (Source: ESA)
The revised launch date for the Metop-B satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome has been set for 19 September 2012. The launch campaign will resume in early July. The Metop-B satellite is being stored in a controlled environment in the Starsem facilities in Baikonur and will be subject to a set of tests and preparatory activities until its fuelling which is currently planned for August. (6/29)

Two Firms Offering Moon Jaunts to the Rich and Dedicated (Source: The Economist)
The space race between America and the Soviet Union was as much about ideological one-upmanship as extraterrestrial exploration. A new space race to the moon has an even less lofty goal: sightseeing. Two space-tourism companies are planning rival lunar missions that could see private individuals paying to fly to Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor.

On June 19th Excalibur Almaz, a space company based on the Isle of Man, a British dependency in the Irish Sea, became the second company—-after Space Adventures, an American space-tourism firm-—to offer tickets for a commercial moonshot. Both firms are charging $150 million a seat, a price that includes months of ground-based training. Neither is offering a descent to the moon’s surface—-just a lunar fly-by.

Whereas the Americans won the first space race, the Russians are favorites for the rematch. Both Excalibur Almaz and Space Adventures are using Russian-made rockets and spacecraft. Space Adventures plans to re-engineer the veteran Soyuz craft that it has used to shuttle seven space tourists up to the International Space Station (ISS). Excalibur Almaz intends to refit two Almaz space stations that were originally made for the Soviet armed forces. (6/29)

Shenzhou-9 Successfully Returns to Earth (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The three member crew of China’s Shenzhou-9 have safely returned to Earth, following a successful – and historic – docked mission with the unmanned space module Tiangong-1. The crew – including China’s first female taikonaut – touched down at the primary landing site in Inner Mongolia at around 2am UTC on Friday. (6/29)

Titan’s Tides Point to Hidden Ocean (Source: ESA)
Nothing like it has been seen before beyond our own planet: large tides have been found on Saturn’s moon Titan that point to a liquid ocean – most likely water – swirling around below the surface. On Earth, we are familiar with the combined gravitational effects of the Moon and Sun creating the twice-daily tidal rise and fall of our oceans. Less obvious are the tides of a few tens of centimeters in our planet’s crust and underlying mantle, which floats on a liquid core. But now the international Cassini mission to Saturn has found that Titan experiences large tides in its surface. (6/28)

Hot Stuff: Hubble Spots Planet With Atmosphere That Boils Off (Source: TPM)
As we’ve said before: As hot as it may be outside, it could be worse. Earth could be much closer to the Sun, for example — so close that our atmosphere would actually boil off. That’s exactly the fate that is occurring to another planet outside our solar system, as European astronomers recently discovered using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The expolanet, HD 189733b, is a gas giant similar to Jupiter but located 63 light-years away from Earth. (6/28)

ISU Media Panel Discussion Held at Florida Tech (Source: America Space)
The International Space University (ISU) Space & Media Panel was held at the Florida Institute of Technology on June 26. The panel was held to discuss how the media cover space-related events and the impact that social media has had on their job. The question that garnered the most attention was; “Is the way people get their news transforming [with] social media?”

David Livingston stated that during the last SpaceX launch he received the most up-to-date reports from ‘Tweeters’ rather than the traditional forms of media. While Jim Lewis stated that he believes that the ‘citizen reporters’ are rapidly catching up to trained journalists. Bill Harwood expressed concern, responding that the protective measures and requirements used by trained journalists and editors could potentially be sacrificed and that accuracy will suffer. (6/28)

Space Station Science at a Critical Point, NASA Says (Source: Space.com)
It's time to get serious about science in space, and the International Space Station is the perfect place to start, NASA officials said. "We are in a position in space research and space exploration where we have to push the ball and advance forward or we're about ready to retreat from space," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

Science experiments on the space station have been under way since the outpost's early days, of course. Construction of the orbiting laboratory began in 1998, and there has been a continuous human presence on the station since 2000. Now, however, there is little left to build and many opportunities to exploit, according to NASA speakers, who encouraged scientists to spread the word. (6/28)

Shuttle Logistics Depot to be taken over by Craig Technologies (Source: Florida Today)
A Cape Canaveral facility with a long history serving the space shuttle program will remain open under new management, preserving a local manufacturing capability and expanding its operations beyond the space industry. Craig Technologies will take over the NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot on Astronaut Boulevard and maintain roughly 1,600 pieces of NASA equipment housed there, the company and space agency confirmed Thursday.

Starting Jan. 1, the facility operated for years by United Space Alliance will become the new headquarters for Melbourne-based Craig Technologies, which will use the equipment on loan from NASA to bolster a recently launched machine and tool division. The move could help the engineering and technology services contractor win new business that creates jobs. “Our intent is to grow, to retain the skill set that’s already here in Brevard County,” said founder and CEO Carol Craig. “This is going to help the county diversify its economic base. It’s not just about space.” (6/28)

NASA Selects Contracts For Environmental Remediation Services (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected three companies to provide architect and engineering professional environmental remediation services at Kennedy Space Center, the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) [collectively known as the "Cape Canaveral Spaceport"] and other NASA locations. The combined maximum potential value for the three contracts is $91 million. Services will be performed during a five-year period beginning this year.

The companies selected are Geosyntec Consultants of Boca Raton, Fla.; Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Cape Canaveral, Fla.; and Tetra Tech of Pittsburgh, Pa. Under the contract, the three companies will compete for fixed-price work orders to develop and implement contamination assessment and remediation requirements for Resource Conservation and Recovery Act sites and petroleum contamination for NASA at the spaceport. (6/28)

Cuyahoga County GOP Says Jobs in Jeopardy at NASA Glenn, NASA Denies Claims (Source: NewsNet5)
Jobs at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland are being moved to other facilities. That is according to the Cuyahoga County Republican Party. The group says the moves will have devastating effects on the local economy. A news release from the Cuyahoga County Republican Party said it confirmed through several sources “the transfer of most research and developmental activities related to manned spaceflight from Glenn Research Center to other NASA facilities.”

This will reportedly affect about 244 jobs. "The information I saw featured many other layoffs at all of the other centers, and that's not good either," said former NASA administrator Michael Griffith. "The fact that the Obama administration is seriously considering moving human space flight work out of Glenn is deeply troubling," Griffin is quoted as saying. "To eliminate Glenn's role in human space flight is to call into question its very participation in NASA's future." Griffin declined to expand on that statement when reached by email. (6/28)

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