June 30, 2012

Alaska Rocket Chief Resigns (Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror)
Alaska Aerospace Corporation is searching for a new CEO after Dale Nash announced his resignation this week. On Wednesday, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, that state’s equivalent to Alaska Aerospace, announced Nash would take over as its executive director beginning July 31. Nash was not available for comment on his move. But AAC President and Chief Operating Officer Craig Campbell says that while Nash will be missed, he could still be an asset to Alaska's aerospace industry.

In the meantime, Campbell says the corporation will continue to seek more funds to construct a third launch pad in Kodiak - this one capable of sending larger rockets into space. He says the next scheduled launch is expected at the end of 2013 or in early 2014. The medium-lift launch pad could be built by then as well. It will be southwest of the current launch sites, on the opposite side of the road, overlooking Twin Lakes and Fossil Beach. Campbell said Alaska Aerospace board chairman Pat Gamble is planning on a special meeting to discuss finding a replacement for Nash, but hasn't yet set a date.

The board could make an appointment directly or conduct an executive search. In that case, an interim chief could be named. Campbell said if the board was interested in talking to him about assuming the CEO job, he'd be happy to give them his ideas of how he'd run the corporation. Editor's Note: Alaska and Florida consider themselves allies among the spaceports nationwide. Space Florida's Frank DiBello visited Alaska recently, to advise lawmakers there about how Florida's spaceport authority is able to provide financing for spaceport infrastructure projects and space industry expansion. (6/28)

NASA: No Plans for Cutbacks at Glenn (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
NASA official reasserted Thursday that the agency does not intend to get rid of human space flight workers at Cleveland's Glenn Research Center, despite a document obtained by NASA's former administrator suggesting such plans were under consideration. The one-page chart given to reporters came from Michael Griffin, who ran NASA during George W. Bush's presidency, and shows that the agency could save $216 million between 2013 and 2016 by eliminating 244 human space flight jobs at Glenn and 825 similar positions at seven other NASA centers.

NASA press secretary Lauren Worley said the chart was part of a budget-planning exercise conducted by mid-level staff, and that senior NASA leadership has "no intention of approving the Glenn Research Center recommendations contained in the pre-decisional staff document." "President Obama's budget for next year increases funding at Glenn and helps support nearly 9,000 jobs in Ohio," Worley said. "The Glenn Research Center always has – and always will – play a critical role in America's leadership in space." (6/28)

Cleveland Has More to Worry About From Romney than Obama (Source: Parabolic Arc)
When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his space advisory group at the end of January, one might reasonably have expected that the group would have gone to work producing some sort of plan for the candidate to run on in relatively short order. Five months later, there is no sign of such a document. However, two members of that body — former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and his former deputy, Scott Pace — showed up in Cleveland this week to scare people with allegations that the Obama Administration plans to cut back staff at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

They failed to mention, however, that Romney’s budget proposals would cut NASA’s spending plan even more. Neither Griffin nor Pace gave any hint as to what Romney would do with the American space program if elected. This probably explains why they insisted they were speaking on their own instead of for the campaign. And since Romney has no public plan, any effort to question them on the subject would have been futile.

According to the Romney website, this is the overall plan: send Congress a bill on Day One that cuts non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent across the board; and pass the House Republican Budget proposal, rolling back President Obama’s government expansion by capping non-security discretionary spending below 2008 levels. A five percent across-the-board cut would trim at least $885 million from NASA’s $17.7 billion FY 2013 budget request in one fell swoop. So, the people of Cleveland actually have more to worry about from Romney’s overall spending plan than anything President Barack Obama has proposed. (6/29)

Sierra Nevada Advances Commercial Spaceplane (Source: Aviation Week)
Like some of its billionaire competitors in the race to build commercial vehicles to take humans to orbit, Sierra Nevada Corp. is taking advantage of its private-company status to build its Dream Chaser reusable spaceplane. The company is owned by its management and plows a lot of the profits it makes on aircraft, small satellites and spacecraft components back into the business.

The model has won it $125 million in Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) funding from NASA, matching that with almost the same in internal funds to push the Dream Chaser through preliminary design review and probably to a good shot at another infusion of NASA funds this summer. At that pace, operational flights could come as early as 2016, according to Mark Sirangelo, who pieced together the company's space division five years ago in a creative merger with his former business. (6/30)

Russia to Expand Commercial Space Services (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia will develop a special program to expand commercial space services and push the United States and EU out of that market, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Friday. Russia needs to expand its presence on the space market. Russia today is a leading provider of space launch services in the world but that only accounts for three percent of the world’s space market. “Everything else is dominated by the Americans and Europeans,” he said.
The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, is to draw up a long-term space program, a “stage-by-stage roadmap for decades ahead,” Rogozin said. (6/29)

Astrium Says Tests Prove Viability Of Liberty Production (Source: Aviation Week)
Astrium says it has completed a series of tests proving that key design and production processes used to manufacture Europe’s Ariane 5 launcher can support production of the Liberty transportation system, one of a handful of proposals vying for NASA development funding under a third round of commercial crew transportation awards the agency will announce this summer.

Led by Alliant TechSystems (ATK), Liberty is based on a combination of hardware from NASA’s defunct Constellation program, including the five-segment solid-rocket booster developed for the Ares 1 rocket and a composite space capsule based on the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle. Astrium Space Transportation is providing the Liberty second stage based on the liquid-fueled cryogenic core of the Ariane 5, which is powered by the Snecma-built Vulcain 2 engine. With 48 consecutive successful missions over nearly nine years, the rocket is arguably the world’s most reliable launcher. (6/29)

Leap Second on Saturday Causes 61-Second Minute (Source: Space.com)
The transition from June to July will be delayed by circumstances beyond everyone's control. Time will stand still for one second on Saturday evening (June 30) because a "leap second" will be added to let a lagging Earth catch up to super-accurate clocks. International Atomic Time is a very accurate and stable time scale. It is a weighted average of the time kept by about 200 atomic clocks in over 50 national laboratories worldwide. Atomic time is measured through vibrations of atoms in a metal isotope that resembles mercury and can keep time to within a tenth of a billionth of a second per day.

The result is extremely accurate time that can be used to improve synchronization in precision navigation and positioning systems, telecommunications networks and deep-space communications. But from their careful observations of the positions of the stars, astronomers have deduced that Earth's rotation is ever so slightly slowing down at a non-uniform rate, probably attributable to its sloshing molten core, the rolling of the oceans, the melting of polar ice and the effects of solar and lunar gravity. (6/29)

Maryland's Sen. Mikulski Tours Launch Pad at Wallops Spaceport (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, paid a visit to NASA's Wallops Island Goddard Flight facility on Monday to see when a test rocket could be launched to the International Space Station. As chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations subcommittee, Mikulski toured the Horizontal Integration Facility and the launch pad to see from where the Antares rocket would launch.

"I am encouraged by the close partnership between federal and state agencies along with the private sector here at Wallops Island working to create jobs today and jobs tomorrow." Mikulski is a longtime champion of the Wallops Island Flight Facility and for investments in science, technology, research and education that lead to American innovation and American jobs.

She has put about $70 million in the federal checkbook during the last decade for critical upgrades to Wallops' infrastructure, including $6 million to make Wallops a hub for broadband service on the Eastern Shore and more than $67 million for launch facilities, which includes $15 million for the HIF and $17 million for the Antares launch pad. (6/29)

Sizing Up Earth's Vulnerability to Space Rock Strikes (Source: Space.com)
A newly announced private space telescope mission aims to reduce Earth's vulnerability to catastrophic asteroid strikes, which the instrument's builders regard as unacceptably high. The Sentinel space telescope, which the nonprofit B612 Foundation hopes to launch in 2017 or 2018, may identify 500,000 near-Earth asteroids in less than six years of operation — quite a feat, considering that just 10,000 such space rocks have been cataloged to date.

This asteroid-mapping work is vitally important, B612 officials say, because some big and dangerous space rocks undoubtedly have Earth's name on them. "They have hit the Earth in the past and will do so in the future, unless we do something about it," former astronaut Ed Lu, B612's chairman and CEO, told reporters. So how vulnerable are we right now to a devastating impact? It varies, depending on the size of the asteroid.

Fortunately, we're probably not going to get smacked any time soon by a potential civilization-killer (anything at least 0.6 miles, or 1 kilometer, wide). Scientists think about 980 of these mountain-size asteroids are zipping through Earth's neighborhood. We've already found nearly 95 percent of them, and none pose a threat to Earth in the near future. But the outlook isn't so rosy for smaller objects. Observations by NASA's WISE space telescope suggest that about 4,700 asteroids at least 330 feet (100 meters) wide come uncomfortably close to our planet at some point in their orbits. (6/30)

The Economics of Mars: It's Time to Be Bold (Source: Mercury News)
The geopolitical dynamics of the 21st century will be a lot different from the latter half of the 20th century -- and although the United States will not be as dominant as it was in the post-World War II years, we can still maintain leadership in technology and innovation. To help assure this, we need to understand our strengths and be willing to take risks -- as we have throughout our history.

One of these strengths is space exploration. Some may argue this is not the right budgetary time to engage in space missions. But this is exactly the right time. At less than half of 1 percent of the federal budget, dollar for dollar NASA can have a much more dramatic impact on the national psyche and, as a result, the economy than any other federal agency. No other agency has as much power to stimulate morale, inspire students to enter into STEM studies, and create high-paying jobs that will fuel the economy. (6/29)

India's Rocket Launch Business is Open to Industry (Source: NDTV)
In a bold move, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is opening up to market forces and is hoping to hand over part of the lucrative rocket launch business and satellite manufacturing to the Indian industry. India's workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which has completed 20 consecutively successful launches under the eagle eye of ISRO, is one such technology that the agency is hoping to hive off to private players.

Today, about 80 % of the vehicle is put together with parts supplied by the private industry. If K Radhakrishnan, the current chairman of ISRO and a manager trained at the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore has his way, then the entire vehicle itself could well be made and launched by private players. ISRO plans to carve out a 250-acre, dedicated 'Space Park' adjoining the space port at Sriharikota, which could be used by private players to develop the Indian aerospace industry. (6/30)

Soyuz Will Carry 3 Home from ISS (Source: Florida Today)
A Russian cosmonaut and astronauts from the U.S. and Europe are scheduled to return to Earth early Sunday, marking the end of a six-month tour on the International Space Station. With Oleg Kononenko at the controls, a Soyuz spacecraft will depart the station at 12:48 a.m. EDT Sunday with NASA’s Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency onboard. The three are scheduled to begin an atmospheric re-entry at 3:19 a.m. and then land on the central steppes of Kazakhstan at 4:14 a.m. (6/30)

NASA Partners With Forest Service To Highlight Wildfires, Science (Source: NASA)
NASA and the U.S. Forest Service signed a Space Act Agreement this week that unites the two agencies in raising awareness about the importance of fire prevention and fire safety. This partnership will highlight areas of common interest in wildfires, forest and plant growth research and materials science. The joint effort will be enhanced by the personal interest of astronaut Joe Acaba, a flight engineer currently aboard the International Space Station.

Acaba is an avid outdoorsman who has focused much of his career on the environment. He selected Smokey Bear, the forest service's mascot, as the zero-gravity indicator and talisman for his Soyuz flight to the orbiting laboratory last month. Crew observations and imagery of the Earth from space are just some areas that will be emphasized. Space station experiments that focus on improved understanding of plant growth and physiology, as well as combustion and materials science, also will have a prominent role in related outreach opportunities and events. (6/30)

Stunning NASA Map Shows Severe Heat Wave Fueling Wildfires (Source: Huffington Post)
The Waldo Canyon Fire burning near Colorado Springs began burning on Saturday, June 23 and by Sunday -- fueled by record heat, high winds and dryness -- it grew rapidly and forced the evacuation of 11,000 residents. After several days of Red Flag Warnings, conditions were ripe for further growth, and by Tuesday, June 26, Waldo Canyon Fire exploded. The fire forced the evacuation of at least 32,000 residents, expanded to 17,073 acres, quickly engulfed nearly 350 homes and killed at least two people.

In this NASA map of land surface temperature anomalies, the intensity and scope of the heat wave in the western United States is clearly visible -- especially over Colorado, southwest Nebraska and parts of Wyoming. The map is based on data gathered from June 17-24 from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite. (6/29)

Project's Success Gives Boost to Chinese Aerospace Shares (Source: China Daily)
Chinese aerospace shares gained considerable ground on Friday as the nation's Shenzhou IX manned spacecraft completed docking and returned to Earth as planned. The ambitious space mission has been seen as presenting potentially golden buying opportunities for investors, in view of the strategic priority now being placed by the government on the aerospace sector, according to experts.

During the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the country set out to build a 60-ton space station and develop a cargo spaceship to transport supplies. The policy incentives have laid a solid foundation for military enterprises to grow in the long run. China also has allocated 670 billion yuan to its national defense budget this year, up 11.2 percent year-on-year. The successful space mission has become a "tipping point" for the overall gloomy capital market, added Wang Yaoji, deputy director of the Securities Research Institute of Fudan University. (6/30)

China Has Long Way To Go As Space Power (Source: China Daily)
China has no intention to compete with others and take the lead in space, said a senior official with the manned space program. China's manned space program aims to build a space station by 2020, the year the International Space Station is due to be taken out of service, according to previous reports. Wang Zhaoyao said: "It is too early to say there will only be China's space station in space, because the International Space Station's lifespan can be extended."

Wang said China does not seek to compete in space with other nations. "We develop the manned space program just to satisfy our own needs," he said. As for why China needs a manned space program, he said it is regarded as "a symbolic project", which presents a country's comprehensive power, and concerns a nation's future development. He cited Deng Xiaoping, China's late leader, as saying that China would not become an influential country and gain international status if it had not experimented with the atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb in the 1960s and launched satellites later.

"The manned space program is also indispensable for a big country," he said, adding that it will boost people's pride, scientific development and skills. "But as we celebrate the success, we also realize the fact that there is still a gap between China and the leading countries in the field of manned space technology," he said. "China's progress in space is fast, but it has not surpassed the leading countries in the field of manned spaceflight," said Qi Faren. In his view, China has yet to become a space power. (6/30)

Mars Has "Oceans" of Water Inside? (Source: National Geographic)
Mars could have entire oceans' worth of water locked in rocks deep underground, scientists say. The finding suggests that ancient volcanic eruptions may have been major sources of water on early Mars—and could have created habitable environments. According to a new study, Martian meteorites contain a surprising amount of hydrated minerals, which have water incorporated in their crystalline structures. In fact, the study authors estimate that the Martian mantle currently contains between 70 and 300 parts per million of water—enough to cover the planet in liquid 660 to 3,300 feet (200 to 1,000 meters) deep. (6/29)

Editorial: Funding Weather Satellites Crucial for Storm Forecasting (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Several years ago, when a senior government official was testifying before Congress in defense of weather-satellite budgets, he was stunned to be asked by a member, "Why are we building meteorological satellites when we have the Weather Channel?" Those of us in the aerospace industry know the short answer: Without NOAA, there would be no Weather Channel. The satellite imagery and data utilized by the Weather Channel and countless other reporting and predicting outlets are generated by satellites operated by NOAA and developed under the auspices of NASA.

In fact, more than 90 percent of all weather data generated for NOAA forecasts comes from government satellites. These satellites are the critical tools used to generate complex forecasting models and the watches and warnings that help people prepare for tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and other severe weather. These satellites save lives. After a catastrophic tornado struck Joplin, Mo., in May 2011, NOAA Deputy Administrator Kathryn Sullivan was surveying the damage when a woman, with tears in her eyes, said that NOAA forecasts had probably saved her family. It was a poignant moment in the aftermath of a storm that cost 160 lives.

At a time when the number of severe weather events is on the rise, full funding of U.S. satellite programs must be ensured. This program was significantly underfunded this year. Fortunately, the White House has proposed to restore needed funding, both for this satellite system and another program critical to accurate early forecasts, the Joint Polar Satellite System. But today both these systems have fallen under a new dark cloud: the budget menace known as sequestration, or automatic spending cuts. (6/29)

Earth’s Oldest Meteorite Crater Found (Source: RIA Novosti)
A giant crater left by the impact of a 30-kilometer asteroid three billion years ago was found in western Greenland by a joint team of Russian and EU researchers. The crater was first discovered in 2009 by geologist Adam Garde who found structural anomalies in rock formations near the town of Maniitsoq, according to an article to be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. However, it took researchers three years to establish that the crater was left by a celestial body and not volcanic activity. (6/29)

DARPA Focuses Again on Air-Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
Moore's Law may ensure small satellites will be increasingly capable, but the rule of thumb has not reduced the size and cost of the vehicles available to launch such miniaturized spacecraft into orbit. So the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Virgin Galactic contracts to design air-launch systems that can place sub-100-lb. payloads into low Earth orbit for $1 million, including range costs.

“Today the sub-100-lb. payload class is mostly rideshares, which impose constraints,” says DARPA's Mitchell Burnside Clapp. Smallsats normally are carried as piggyback payloads, usually headed for geostationary orbit. While small payloads have increased in capability since air launch was last considered seriously, allowing cheaper spacecraft to complete bigger missions, range costs have escalated as the ground-based infrastructure has aged, Burnside Clapp says. Range services now account for up to 35% of launch costs, he says.

There have been many previous studies of air launch, including DARPA's own Falcon prompt global strike program of the early 2000s, which proposed using an aircraft to launch a booster carrying a long-range hypersonic glider. “Previous attempts at air launch did not focus enough on the rocket side,” he says. “They over-invested in an aircraft that could only do one thing—support the launch.” Click here. (6/29)

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