July 11, 2012

Sierra Nevada Completes Dream Chaser Nose Landing Gear Test (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has completed a successful test of the nose landing gear for its full-scale Dream Chaser engineering flight test vehicle. The completed test and an upcoming flight test are part of SNC's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The gear test is an important milestone to prepare for the upcoming approach and landing test of the Dream Chaser Space System later this year. It evaluated the impact the nose landing gear will experience on touchdown in order to ensure a safe runway landing.

SNC is one of seven companies developing commercial crew transportation capabilities to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. The Dream Chaser is the only spacecraft under CCDev2 that is winged and designed to land on a conventional runway. It is designed to carry as many as seven astronauts to space. SNC tested the spacecraft's main landing gear in February. This nose landing gear test completes the milestones leading up to the upcoming approach and landing test, which will complete the CCDev2 partnership. (7/11)

Who Owns the Asteroids? Space Mining Project Raises Legal Questions (Source: Space.com)
Private groups are shaping business plans to tap into the resource-rich environs of outer space. Early celestial targets with commercial cross hairs on them are the moon, as well as asteroids. While the financial backing, technology and entrepreneurial spirit to mine asteroids and other space targets is jelling, yet to be grappled with is a mix of thorny issues, such as property and mineral rights, ownership and possession, international treaties, as well as the big "C" — not for Cosmos, but for Capitalism.

A Space Resources Roundtable that convened here in June brought together experts to address off-Earth resources, private development and the legal issues ahead. The conference was convened by the Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium, in collaboration with Colorado School of Mines and the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Legal experts appear divided on what route is most likely, increasing the current difficulty of making business plans for space. Click here. (7/10)

Simulated Space 'Terror' Offers NASA an Online Following (Source: New York Times)
The video is called “Seven Minutes of Terror,” and describes, with the suspense and cinematography of a movie preview, what will happen next month when a one-ton spacecraft launched in November smacks into Mars. “We’ve got literally seven minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere to the surface of Mars, going from 13,000 miles an hour to zero,” Tom Rivellini, a NASA engineer, tells the camera with a grim face and deadpan delivery. “If any one thing doesn’t work just right, it’s game over.”

Posted last month on YouTube, the video has succeeded in an area where NASA has a mixed track record: using social media and other tools of the 21st century to whip up interest in space exploration. Despite minimal publicity, “Seven Minutes” has been racking up views and attracting droll commentary on the impending arrival of the rover, which goes by the name of Curiosity. This time, NASA seems to have a hit. The “Seven Minutes” video has been viewed more than half a million times.

As part of the educational program for the James Webb Space Telescope, the planned successor to Hubble that has been troubled by delays and cost overruns, NASA created a game in which players create their own space telescope, but to underwhelming reviews. “Too bad this game is not totally realistic so as to let people play with schedule and cost,” wrote Keith Cowing of NASA Watch. (7/10)

Titusville Space Monument Gets Another Boost (Source: Florida Today)
The US Space Walk of Fame will get a $25,000 contribution earlier than expected for work on a Shuttle monument. The Community Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday voted 6-1 to complete a $50,000 request. In March, the CRA approved half of the request and postponed the other half until the next budget. After preparing next year's budget, city staff recommended completing the contribution to the space industry monument in the current budget cycle. (7/11)

Global Warming Linked to 2011 Weather Extremes (Source: WIRED)
A first attempt to dissect climate and weather extremes only months after they happen is confirming more leisurely analyses of earlier heat waves, droughts, and flooding. Human-induced global warming is indeed increasing the chances that Texas will be hit with record heat and dryness or that the United Kingdom will have an unusually mild winter. But it’s not always that simple. The strengthening greenhouse had nothing to do with last year’s disastrous flooding in Thailand, the new analyses find. They also show that extreme U.K. winter cold may be less likely than decades ago, but it can still happen.

The half-dozen peer-reviewed studies appear today as a package in the July issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society under the aegis of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.K. Met Office. Researchers used a variety of techniques to search for any link between the atmosphere’s mounting greenhouse gases and extreme weather and climate around the world. Some methods involved climate modeling, while others drew on long climate records for the regions involved.

In 2011, Texas suffered the hottest and driest spring-to-summer growing season on record since 1895. Although La Niña’s cooler-than-normal waters in the tropical Pacific helped intensify the Texas heat and drought, climate scientist David Rupp of Oregon State University, Corvallis, and his colleagues found that La Niña-related heat waves are now 20 times more likely now than they were 50 years ago, when global warming was just getting started. Click here. (7/11)

Inmarsat Wants More Launch Providers (Source: Aviation Week)
The head of satellite services provider Inmarsat says he would like to see additional established launch service providers in the market, and hopes that new and returning players such as SpaceX and Sea Launch will help foster more choice and competition. But he also says too many can become a crowd. With Delta/Atlas manufacturer United Launch Alliance “essentially out of the market for commercial launches,” companies looking for geostationary launch providers with long track records of success essentially have a choice between Arianespace and International Launch Services (ILS), according to Rupert Pearce, CEO of London-based Inmarsat.

“Basically you've got a duopoly at the moment for commercial launches,” Pearce tells Aviation Week. Fewer than three major providers of launches for geostationary satellites is not enough, he contends. “I'd like to see four or more, ideally,” he says. But there is hope in the form of Sea Launch, which is in the process of recovering from launch failures and financial woes, and SpaceX with its Falcon 9 rocket.

“Sea Launch is coming back,” Pearce says. “We know they experienced a lot of problems. They've got to develop the track record again.” Editor's Note: I think Sea Launch could be more competitive if they ditched their high-cost ocean infrastructure and decided instead to launch from a Cape Canaveral Spaceport launch pad. And what about Yuzhnoye and their proposed Mayak family of rockets, which they've proposed to launch from Florida? (7/11)

Cuts Could Stall NextGen Air Traffic System (Source: Airport World)
NextGen, a new satellite-based air traffic control system, could face delays if sequestration cuts go into effect, says Marion C. Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. If that happens, she said, "air traffic delays will return and approach gridlock; and the economic engine that is air transportation -- the sector that for decades has pulled GDP up and down its crooked graph -- will sputter and stall." (7/10)

Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto (Source: HubbleSite)
A team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system. Provisionally designated S/2012 (134340) 1, the latest moon was detected in nine separate sets of images taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on June 26, 27, and 29, 2012 and July 7 and 9, 2012. This discovery increases the number of known moons orbiting Pluto to five. (7/11)

Dark Galaxies of Early Universe Spotted for The First Time (Source: ESO)
For the first time, dark galaxies -- an early phase of galaxy formation, predicted by theory but unobserved until now -- may have been spotted. These objects are essentially gas-rich galaxies without stars. Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, an international team thinks they have detected these elusive objects by observing them glowing as they are illuminated by a quasar. (7/11)

AIAA Space Exploration Panel Raises a Few Hackles (Source: Space Politics)
On Monday, the AIAA announced it was holding a “dialogue on deep space exploration” on Capitol Hill on July 24. Scheduled to speak are Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), a member of the House Science Committee; Scott Pace of the GWU’s Space Policy Institute; James Green, head of NASA HQ’s planetary sciences division; Brian Duffy, an ATK vice president; Jim Crocker, a Lockheed Martin vice president; Kris Lehnhardt,a physician and professor at GWU; and Ralph McNutt of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab.

At first glance, that looks an an innocuous enough panel, with a mix of industry, academia, and government representatives. But the event has attracted some critical attention, in part because of the panel’s composition but also because of who is the current AIAA president: former NASA administrator Mike Griffin. NASA’s Alan Ladwig expressed his criticism of the panel’s composition in a tweet on Tuesday: "The AIAA forum lacks balance. A Romney rep, but none from Administration. Legacy companies, but no NewSpace. Griffin makes his mark."

Griffin, though, may not have helped his cause by including in the release his beliefs about the next destination for human space exploration. “The next stop on that frontier is the moon, and it is indeed still new. It is no longer enough to point to our past achievements; most of today’s world cannot recall the time when our astronauts could voyage to the moon. It is for us to resolve that they will do so again, and soon,” he stated. He warned that the US can still choose to lead the way, but “within a very few years, it will belong to others.” (7/10)

SST-US Collaborates with Virgin Galactic for Small Satellite Launches (Source: Hobby Space)
Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC (SST-US) has agreed with Virgin Galactic to optimize Surrey’s innovative satellites for Virgin’s new launch vehicle, radically lowering the cost of building and launching small satellites. SST-US and Virgin Galactic have agreed to work together to provide SST-US, the world leader in small satellite manufacturing, the information needed to build the most powerful spacecraft that LauncherOne can support, giving satellite customers a powerful and affordable option to put their payloads into space. (7/11)

Ireland to Become NASA’s First International Research Partner (Source: The Journal)
Ireland is to become the first international research partner of US space agency NASA. The announcement, due to be officially made tomorrow at Trinity College Dublin, will allow Irish science undergraduates to work at NASA’s research facilities and is seen by some as a move to send Ireland’s first astronaut into space. Eoin Reynolds reports that talks between the Irish consulate in San Francisco and NASA regarding the partnership have been ongoing for the past two years.

The news comes as the Euroscience Open Forum, a biennial meeting on scientific research and innovation, kicks off in Dublin today. The major gathering of the science and innovation community opens at the Dublin Convention Centre and is one of the key events in the year-long Dublin City of Science festival. (7/11)

California Science Center Lines Up Hangars to House Endeavour (Source: CollectSpace)
When NASA's space shuttle Endeavour arrives in Los Angeles in September, it will call an airline's hangar home before being paraded through the city streets to the California Science Center for display. Endeavour, once it is moved into the center's new shuttle dedicated hangar, will be reunited with one its missions' larger payloads, the commercial logistics module that flew with NASA's first educator astronaut to the International Space Station. (7/11)

SpaceX Reusable Rocket Prototype Almost Ready for First Liftoff (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
SpaceX's Grasshopper testbed for a reusable rocket booster could fly soon from the company's Texas test facility on a short hop designed to demonstrate its ability to take off and land under thrust on a launch pad. The Grasshopper test vehicle stands 106 feet tall, and its initial flights will reach 240 feet and last about 45 seconds to check the design of the rocket's landing system. SpaceX has constructed a half-acre concrete launch facility in McGregor, and the Grasshopper rocket is already standing on the pad, outfitted with four insect-like silver landing legs.

SpaceX technicians added four steel landing legs and a support structure to a qualified Falcon 9 rocket first stage. The Grasshopper program is the first step in achieving SpaceX's goal of developing a reusable booster, which would require the rocket's first stage to fly back to a landing pad at or near the launch site. SpaceX's concept calls for the first stage to descend and land vertically, using rocket thrust to settle to a soft touchdown.

Speaking in June at the company's test facility in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said the Grasshopper program was on the verge of its first flight. "We're hoping to do short hops at some point in the next couple of months, and then in terms of higher flights, I'm hopefully we can go supersonic before the end of the year," Musk said. "That's not a prediction. That's an aspiration." (7/10)

Branson: Introducing LauncherOne! (Source: Virgin.com)
We can [now] announce the next step of the Galactic journey: revolutionary new satellite launch vehicle LauncherOne. The pieces are all in place to transform the business of satellite launch, which will open up space to everyone. This new vehicle will change the whole satellite industry and space-based science research. Even before this official launch we have the largest order book of any new launch vehicle ever.

The cost of putting a satellite into space before Virgin Galactic was around $30-40 million. We'll be able to do it for under $10 million, opening up space to thousands of new groups, universities and research programs. LauncherOne will go around the world at 80,000mph in 80 minutes. It's actually 90 minutes, but I thought around the world in 80 minutes sounded better! (7/11)

Cunningham: Winning the War with Global Warming Alarmists (Source: Space News)
The letter that 50 former NASA employees signed to the NASA administrator in March did not deal with space. The letter addressed NASA’s reputation for high-quality, objective science. That reputation, established by thousands of employees over the past 50 years, is being tarnished by the political stance the agency has been taking with respect to climate science.

Claims by NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are inconsistent with hundreds of thousands of years of empirical data. Hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists have publicly declared their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership. It is clear that the science is not settled.

In spite of this, climate alarmist claims on human-caused global warming are the focus of NASA’s climate website. The unbridled advocacy of carbon dioxide as the major cause of global climate change is contrary to NASA’s history of objectively assessing all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements. Advocating an extreme position prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is not appropriate. (7/11)

Eutelsat and Arianespace Sign Launch Contract (Source: Space Daily)
Consolidating a relationship now entering into its 30th year, Eutelsat Communications and Arianespace have announced the conclusion of a new launch services contract for a future Eutelsat satellite. The assignment of the launch to a satellite will be made at a later stage. The contract for an Ariane 5 launch from the Guiana Space Centre provides Eutelsat with launch flexibility and schedule assurance for its in-orbit expansion program of six satellites to be launched by end-2014. (7/11)

UK Space Agency Publishes its Civil Space Strategy (Source: Space Daily)
The 'Civil Space Strategy' setting out the direction for the UK space sector over the next four years was launched, Tuesday 10th July, at the Farnborough International Airshow. The Strategy sets out the UK Space Agency's framework supporting the growth of the sector over the next four years. The Civil Space Strategy was formally launched by the Minister for Universities and Science to the international space community, gathered for Space Day at Farnborough.

David Willetts discussed the Strategy in his speech to the Space Conference as well as revealing the latest results of the Size and Health of the UK Space Sector. The document, covering the next four years, focuses on creating new opportunities for industry, bolstering the role of space in the UK's infrastructure and furthering the National Space Technology Program. The strategy emphasizes driving space to generate economic growth in downstream services derived from space, while maintaining excellence in science and the ability to build and operate satellites. (7/11)

UK Considers Spaceport Development (Source: Huffington Post)
The UK could seek to build a spaceport for commercial use, a government minister has said. Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said the UK would aggressively seek to take advantage of the growth in space tourism - and that there was "an opportunity for us to seize the advantage in terms of both technology and regulation. Space tourism and commercial space are just beyond the horizon".

Any spaceport - purely theoretical at this stage - would involve working with Europe and the European Space Agency, Willetts suggested. He said: "We will be working with Justine Greening at the Department for Transport, to determine how the UK...can best position itself to take advantage of space plane activities. "We'll be exploring the type of certification needed for space crafts and identifying the essential characteristics of an operational spaceport." (7/11)

New York City Taps NASA For Emergency Comm Support (Source: NY Daily News)
It sounds out of this world. New York City plans to pay NASA $13 million to troubleshoot its behind-schedule and over-budget Emergency Communications Transformation Program. NASA’s independent Verification and Validation office, which usually tests systems for the space program, will be reviewing the revamped 911-system, the Department of Information and Technology confirmed. NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey said the agency would act as “a second set of eyes...to ensure that what’s being built is going to function properly.” (7/11)

Utah Rocket Company Could Bring 1,300 Jobs to Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Rocket Crafters Inc., a Utah-based company that specializes in hybrid-rocket design and aerospace-composite technologies, is moving to Titusville, where it hopes to create as many as 1,300 full-time jobs. The company plans to develop and commercialize a new hybrid rocket-propulsion technology and an ultra-light, advanced composite material for the manufacture of dual-propulsion spaceplanes for suborbital flight.

The company will receive tax breaks and other economic incentives from state and local governments to offset the costs of relocating, buying production equipment and adding infrastructure, the local EDC said. Rocket Crafters said it will spent $72 million on its planned headquarters and other operations at Space Coast Regional Airport. At full employment, the company's economic effect would total an estimated $48 million or more, the EDC said.

Construction of the company's planned 400,000-square-foot facility at Space Coast Regional Airport isn't expected to begin until the third quarter of 2014. But the company plans to commence operations in a temporary facility by the end of this year. (7/11)

NASA Welcomes Rocket Crafters Inc. to Florida (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center welcomes Rocket Crafters Inc. (RCI) to Florida's Space Coast. The company announced Tuesday a plan to bring new work to Brevard County that could create job opportunities for highly skilled former space shuttle employees. RCI is a Utah-based company that holds licenses for advanced hybrid rocket and aerospace composite technologies, as well as proprietary hybrid rocket design and analysis software.

This is further evidence that the Space Coast is open for business and positioning itself for the next era of space exploration. Recently, NASA and Lockheed Martin Space Systems revealed the first Orion capsule that will fly to space. NASA announced agreements with The Boeing Company and Craig Technologies to use Kennedy facilities and equipment, and SpaceX launched a successful resupply mission to the International Space Station. (7/11)

Canadian Space Agency and NASA Test Lunar Technologies (Source: CSA)
At the invitation of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) begins a joint nine-day field test today in a volcanic area near Hilo, Hawaii, to test technologies and concepts for lunar exploration. Dubbed RESOLVE (short for "Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction"), the project will demonstrate how future explorers could extract water and other useful resources from the lunar soil at potential polar landing sites. Terrestrial field work, like the RESOLVE mission, allows scientific and technical teams to test exploration concepts in a cost-efficient manner to reduce the risks in designing future missions. (7/11)

Got $10,000? Send your DNA Off to the Moon (Source: MSNBC)
Lunar fans stuck on Earth no longer have to settle for listening to Frank Sinatra sing "Fly Me to the Moon" for the umpteenth time — a Google Lunar X Prize team has promised to send anyone's DNA to the moon in exchange for a $10,000 online donation. The chance to take one small step in space for family lineage comes from the Omega Envoy team — one of many competitors racing to land a robot on the moon in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. Any DNA samples tagging along for the ride would launch to the moon with the mission scheduled for December 2014. (7/10)

Branson to Join Virgin Space Flight (Source: UKPA)
With typical flair, Sir Richard Branson has announced that he and his children will be the first passengers when the Virgin Galactic space tourism program begins. Virgin boss Sir Richard and son Sam and daughter Holly are expected to be flying 60 miles up into space on the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) aircraft by the end of next year.

Sir Richard joined around 120 other tourists who have signed up for the two-hour flights, at 200,000 US dollars (£128,000) a trip. As the travellers and Sir Richard posed at Farnborough Air Show beside a replica of SS2, Sir Richard also announced that the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft that will help launch SS2 into space will also be used for a new launch vehicle - LauncherOne - which will take small satellites into space for around a tenth of the present cost.

Virgin Galactic has announced that a total of 529 people - including, it is believed, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - have signed up for an SS2 trip. This number now outstrips the 528 who have gone into space since Yuri Gagarin's first trip in 1961. Sir Richard said: "Going into space is a hard business. It keeps my mind buzzing." (7/11)

New Boost for Revolutionary Skylon Spaceplane (Source: SEN)
Development of the Skylon spaceplane has passed a critical milestone following tests on the key component for its SABRE engine. The engine, being developed by Reaction Engines Ltd, looks set to revolutionise not only space travel but also air transport around the world. It promises to allow a new generation of aircraft to fly from one side of the Earth to the other, e.g. the UK to Australia, in just four hours instead of the 22 or so needed nowadays.

But it will also provide sufficient boost to send the Skylon spaceplane into orbit where it could deliver satellites or link up with the International Space Station. What makes SABRE different from other aircraft engines is a revolutionary ability to switch from an air-breathing mode to that of a rocket engine. This hybrid function will allow it to power aircraft at up to five times the speed of sound within the atmosphere or directly into Earth orbit at 25 times the speed of sound.

Critical to the operation of this new engine is the ability to cool continuously the incoming airstream from over 1,000⁰C to minus 150⁰C in less than 1/100th of a second. That effectively doubles the current technical limits of jet engine speeds. The tests, undertaken at Reaction Engines’ facility in Oxfordshire, integrated the ground-breaking flight-weight pre-cooler technology with a jet engine and a novel helium cooling loop, demonstrating the crucial new technologies in the SABRE engine. (7/11)

Igniting Innovation Showcase in September (Source: TRDA)
Join Space Florida and the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) for the Igniting Innovation Capital Acceleration Program Showcase in Orlando, FL on Friday, September 21, 2012. This full-day of business presentations and exhibitions will feature aerospace, aviation, biotech, clean tech, defense, homeland security, life science, information technology and telecommunications companies from across the state.

Chosen from TRDA's Igniting Innovation Capital Acceleration Program and the Clean Tech Venture Initiative, these companies represent of the most innovative and promising entrepreneurial firms in Florida. One company, presenting as a part of the i2 Capital Acceleration Program, will also be awarded $100,000 by Space Florida and receive commercialization assistance from the TRDA. Click here. (7/11)

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