July 18, 2012

Panasonic Avionics Is First Customer for Intelsat Epic Satellites (Source: Aviation Week)
Panasonic Avionics on July 18 announced it will be the first customer on Intelsat’s new generation of high-throughput satellites, called Epic, booking 1 gigabit per second of capacity for aeronautical broadband services on a satellite scheduled for launch in 2015. California-based Panasonic Avionics, which is assembling a global network of satellite coverage to provide television and Internet access to commercial airline passengers, has also contracted for new capacity on the Intelsat 21 and Intelsat 27 Ku-band satellites, scheduled for launch in August and in early 2013, respectively. (7/18)

Innovative Partnerships Expand NASA's Summer Education Reach (Source: NASA)
NASA's Office of Education has selected more than 200 organizations across the country to receive Summer of Innovation (SoI) mini-grants. Each award has a maximum value of $2,500. This investment is designed to expand NASA's education network and help the agency keep middle school students engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities throughout the summer break and beyond.

Last month, NASA announced it was seeking collaborators to infuse NASA-themed STEM content into existing summer and after school programs for middle school students. The agency received more than 500 proposals in response to this solicitation. Editor's Note: Five of the winning proposals were from Florida. Click here to see the national list of winners. (7/18)

Hard Problems Solved For Space Benefit Companies On The Ground (Source: Aviation Week)
Solving challenging engine problems for NASA directly led one company to improve its coal gasification technology on the ground, a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne executive says. John Vilja says the extreme challenge of manned space missions drives terrestrial achievement as well. “We force ourselves into multidisciplinary advancement, which in turn enables new solutions to some of our toughest challenges here on Earth,” he told a House Science subcommittee.

The company’s improved coal gasification uses 30% less water, cuts capital and product costs and reduces emissions. Plus, the technology isn’t picky about coal blends. Pratt & Whitney has partnered with the Energy Department, ExxonMobil and Alberta Innovates to develop the product for market. The diversification of technologies and customers benefits its launch engine customers, Vilja says, by spreading fixed costs over a larger market base. (7/18)

Former KSC Director Forrest McCartney Dies (Source: Florida Today)
Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Forrest McCartney, who led NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) through a difficult period in the wake of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986, has died. He was 81. McCartney served as director of KSC from October 1986 through 1991. KSC’s current director, Robert Cabana, told the center’s work force about his death in a July 18 email.

In a recent interview, McCartney talked about his time at KSC. “The return-to-flight efforts were very slow, and the work force was in need of picking up,” he said. “It was not a very good situation at all. … I just needed to get them what they needed to do their jobs. “You know, they were such a competent team. If you get them what they need, and let them do what they do best, things will go right. And they sure did.” (7/18)

Military, Space Cuts Could Cost Colorado 17,000 Jobs (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Possible cuts to the nation's military and space budgets could mean the loss of more than 17,000 jobs in Colorado, the Colorado Space Coalition warns. Inside Real Estate News reports that the CSC -- representing space and defense companies as well as academic, research and economic-development leaders -- is has written to Colorado's members of Congress asking that they work to avoid cuts. The so-called "sequestration" cuts would be triggered if lawmakers can't agree on a deficit-reduction plan. (7/18)

Defense Cuts Could Trigger 10,000 Lockheed Layoffs, CEO Says (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin likely would lose 10,000 jobs as a result of sequestration, estimates Robert Stevens, Lockheed chairman and CEO. His prediction came at the same time that former Vice President Dick Cheney was telling Senate Republicans that defense cuts would leave the U.S. military unprepared for war. (7/18)

Senators: Put Off Sequestration For a Year (Source: The Hill)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is one of several senators suggesting a stop-gap approach to possible sequestration defense cuts: delaying them for a year while a longer-term solution is worked out. A delay would prevent the need for layoff notices at defense firms, Ayotte said. Congress "may need to do a short-term effort" on the cuts while it works on a larger compromise, said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH. (7/18)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Could Threaten National Security, Experts Say (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Unmanned aerial vehicles could pose a threat to national security, experts say. For example, a suspect in Boston last week pleaded guilty to charges in a plot to load UAVs with explosives and fly them into the U.S. Capitol Building and the Pentagon in Washington. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of UAVs by more than 100 agencies across the country. (7/18)

U.S. Keeps Wary Eye on China's Space Program (Source: McClatchy)
China launched an anti-satellite test in 2007 and an anti-ballistic missile test in 2010 without alerting the international community beforehand. Now the Beijing government has moved a step closer to its goal of building a space station by 2020: In June, China completed a successful manned docking test, keeping on track to execute the three-step space plan it announced in the 1990s.

As China quickly carves out its place in space, American experts are beginning to question what its moves mean for the United States at a time NASA is undergoing a fundamental shift in its own mission. That’s partly because China’s agenda remains unclear, despite official claims that the program’s intentions are peaceful. “Peaceful is in the eye of the beholder,” said Dean Cheng, an expert on Chinese political and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation, a policy research center in Washington. “The Chinese military is thinking of space in ways that would threaten U.S. space assets.” (7/17)

Curiosity Reboots In Preparation For Mars Landing (Source: Information Week)
The computers on NASA's Curiosity rover are being rebooted as the spacecraft approaches Mars for its Aug. 5 landing. The process, which occurs over four days, resets Curiosity's primary and backup systems to their default state in advance of a landing sequence that leaves little room for error. The computers, called Rover Compute Elements, are redundant systems. The reboot process began on July 16 and will continue through July 20. (7/18)

UCF Discovers Exoplanet Neighbor -- University's First Planet (Source: UCF)
The University of Central Florida has detected what could be its first planet, only two-thirds the size of Earth and located right around the corner, cosmically speaking, at a mere 33-light years away. The exoplanet candidate called UCF 1.01, is close to its star, so close it goes around the star in 1.4 days. The planet’s surface likely reaches temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The discoverers believe that it has no atmosphere, is only two-thirds the gravity of Earth and that its surface may be volcanic or molten.

“We have found strong evidence for a very small, very hot and very close-by planet with the help of the Spitzer Space Telescope,” said Kevin Stevenson, a recent Ph.D graduate from UCF. “This discovery is a significant accomplishment for UCF.” Stevenson and his colleagues were studying a hot-Neptune exoplanet, designated GJ 436b, already known to exist around the red-dwarf star GJ 436, when data revealed clues that led them to suspect there could be at least one new planet in that system, perhaps two. (7/18)

Texas Space Alliance Brings Together Governor and Private Space Leaders (Source: TXA)
The Texas Space Alliance (TXA) and the office of the Speaker of the House are pleased to announce the meeting in Austin between Governor Rick Perry and numerous representatives of the nation's top new commercial space firms. The TXA team brought together representatives from SpaceX, XCOR Aerospace, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), Armadillo Aerospace, NanoRacks, Celestis, and ATK Liberty to talk about the needs of Commercial Space, and what Texas can do to fully embrace and nurture this vital, fledgling new industry.

"This is the first time ever that representatives from so many commercial (NewSpace) firms have gathered in one place to share their support for our shared vision for the future of Texas in space, and communicate that to the Governor," said Bob Lancaster, TXA President. "Definitely a significant milestone in the history of Texas." Over the past year the TXA, members of the legislature, and the Governor's staff have begun to forge a new set of partnerships, between federal, state and local governments and those who are ready to step up in the private sector - with the shared goal of lowering costs, creating wealth and jobs and re-casting how Texas "does space".

In the last legislative session TXA partnered with Blue Origin and helped pass a landmark tort reform bill as a first step in this journey. Meanwhile, the Governor's staff has been working to bring new space firms to Texas and open new facilities here including spaceports. In the next legislative session TXA will build on the steps already taken and the hard work performed by the Governor and his staff to create the tools and find the funds needed to transform Texas into not only the leading "Space State" in America, but a leader in the world. Click here. (7/18)

Space Florida Board Plans Tour of Spaceport on Aug. 14 (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's board of directors will gather at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Aug. 14 for a tour of the spaceport and the state's Space Life Sciences Lab. Click here for information. (7/18)

ESA Awards Imagery-processing Contract for Sentinel Environmental Satellites (Source: Space News)
Italy’s e-Geos Earth imagery services provider will process data from Europe’s Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 environmental satellites under a contract valued at 10 million euros ($12.5 million) over seven years, e-Geos announced. Under the contract with the 19-nation European Space Agency (ESA), e-Geos’ Matera, Italy, center will provide X-band acquisition services and the payload data ground segment for the satellites, which are intended to be part of the European Union’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program. (7/18)

AsiaSat Shareholders Reject Privatization Bid (Source: Space News)
AsiaSat shareholders on July 18 rejected a proposed privatization of the Hong Kong-based satellite fleet operator. Under Hong Kong regulations, the proposal’s backers will now be barred from making a fresh offer for 12 months unless the company’s management explicitly approves it. In a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, AsiaSat said trading its stock would resume July 19. Trading was suspended July 18 pending the privatization vote. (7/18)

Daytona's Role Will Evolve With Space Program (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
NASA's current outsourcing to Russia for astronaut flights doesn't sit well with many Americans, given that we have so much aerospace potential from Cape Canaveral to Daytona Beach to Houston and California. But federal officials have promised to renew the manned missions sometime in the next decade. When that time arrives, Volusia County's aerospace assets will be part of the process.

There is no denying that the U.S. space program is going through its biggest change since the early 1960s. Volusia County is well positioned to be part of the new efforts that emerge on the Space Coast. The county has NASA workers and former workers, and it also has strong ties to private-sector aerospace companies through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Those ties will grow as the university develops its research and technology park.

Embry-Riddle is also developing the new air-traffic technology, NextGen, at the Daytona Beach International Airport. The NextGen technology will replace current land-based technology with satellite-based navigation systems. This program involves the Federal Aviation Administration and a number of aerospace and high-tech companies, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and GE Aviation. So much of Volusia County's future investment in aerospace technologies could come through Embry-Riddle and not NASA. (7/18)

Web-Funded Satellite Lets You Tweet From Space (Source: PC World)
From the people that developed SkySafari, the highly popular astronomy app for iOS, Android and Mac OS X, comes the SkyCube. It's a nano-satellite measuring only 10-by-10-by-10 centimeters that will be launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the first quarter of 2013. A contribution to the SkyCube Kickstarter campaign will reserve your chance to broadcast messages or take pictures from it during its mission.

The primary mission of the SkyCube is to bring space exploration to the masses, giving ordinary people the ability to fund and use their own satellite. It is equipped with a low-resolution camera (the specs on the camera have not been specified) which will take pictures of Earth, space and perhaps the similar ArduSat which completed its Kickstarter campaign with over $100,000 just a few days ago. I hope there are talks of battle-satellites in space! (7/18)

Rocket Purchases Buoy Vandenberg AFB Programs (Source: Santa Maria Times)
NASA bought four rockets to carry satellites to space from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and three of those missions will mean new life for a workhorse launch vehicle program once thought to be done. Delta 2 rockets fly from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg, and Falcon 9 rockets will fly from Spacce Launch Complex=-4 on the South Base. Along with keeping employees busy and securing jobs, rocket launches help fill local hotels and restaurants in the days and weeks before liftoff as additional crews and spectators arrive. (7/18)

The Intrepid's Enterprise Exhibit Gets Ready to Launch (Source: WNYC)
The new space shuttle pavilion at New York's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum opens to the public on Thursday. It will offer visitors an up-close and personal view of the space shuttle Enterprise, as well as exhibits on NASA's current missions on earth and space science, research on improving aeronautics and the rockets destined to take humans to explore the solar system. Workers were putting the finishing touches on the pavilion, as opening day approached.

"All the graphics have been installed," said Eric Boehm, the museum's Curator of Aviation. "Right now, we're installing a lot of video monitors and all those shows will be test-run here the next couple days. You know, just getting everything tweaked." The opening of the Intrepid Museum's Space Shuttle pavilion will be celebrated by a five day long Space Fest, featuring a free concert, special hands-on robotics and astronomy displays, and opportunities to meet former and current astronauts, many of whom have ties to the New York City area.

According to Boehm, visitors to the Enterprise will have much better access to this shuttle compared to the other shuttles on display at other museums. The shuttle and its exhibits are currently housed in a huge white inflatable structure on the Intrepid's flight deck, where it will remain for the next couple of years as the museum plans and builds a separate permanent structure to house the Enterprise. (7/18)

First Look: China’s Big New Rockets (Source: America Space)
Images from China’s new heavy rocket development program show spotless production facilities with advanced tooling to build China’s new Long March 5/CZ-5 heavy rocket, along with even more advanced launchers to come. In addition to CZ-5 hardware development, China is completing design studies on two 11 million lb. thrust Long March 9 maximum heavy lift rocket configurations. If approved for final development, one of the designs would emerge for flight in 2020-2025 with the capability to launch Chinese astronauts to the surface of the Moon.

The concepts mean that China is designing “a Super Saturn V rocket,” says Charles P. Vick, a highly experienced analyst with GlobalSecurity.Org. Currently, six Long March 5 vehicle configurations are planned for different missions, with a maximum payload capacity of 55,000 lbs. to LEO and nearly 31,000 lbs. to geostationary transfer orbits. This makes it more powerful than a Delta IV Heavy, depending upon the mission configuration.

Details emerging from largely secret Chinese rocket projects point up the importance of the Long March 5 to future far more powerful Chinese rockets. Whether the timing of China’s Long March 9 development is a deliberate challenge to the U. S. is unknown. But while neither China nor the U. S. professes to be in a new space race, they may well already be in one. Click here. (7/18)

Pioneer Anomaly Confirmed as Excess Heat Effect (Source: USA Today)
Confirming a 2011 study, Slava Turyshev of JPL finds the slight pushback of thermal radiation, unaccounted for in initial analyses, explains the .00001 foot per hour slowing of the spacecraft, noted since 1980. Some theorists had pointed to alternate explanations of gravity to explain the slowdown, but the effect looks less mysterious on closer inspection. "The effect is something like when you're driving a car and the photons from your headlights are pushing you backward," Turyshev says, in a statement. "It is very subtle." (7/18)

Covert Payload From Last Atlas 5 Unmasks Itself in Orbit (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Unlike the NRO's other diverse constellations of imaging and surveillance spacecraft, the type of satellite carried aloft on the June 20 launch fulfills a a more mondane housekeeping role by re-transmitting information from those clandestine spy birds to operators. In the weeks since launch, the satellite maneuvered itself into a high-flying geosynchronous perch. A seasoned sky-watcher, Greg Roberts of South Africa, made the first visual observations of the spacecraft Monday night as it hovered above the Atlantic.

It is believed that the satellite will replace an aging relay spacecraft launched atop an Atlas 2AS rocket from Cape Canaveral in October 2001. A similar update occurred last year when a Delta 4 rocket deployed a replacement for another relay craft that sent up in December 2000. Both refresh missions occurred 11 years into the satellites' service lives. The NRO has been using so-called Satellite Data System birds for decades to receive transmissions from low-orbiting surveillance craft and route the information back to ground stations. (7/18)

India On Course to Have Navigation System After US, EU, Japan (Source: Economic Times)
After the USA, Japan and Europe, India is on course to put in place a regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) for civil aviation purposes by June next year, say key officials associated with the ambitious project. Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which have jointly taken up the Rs 774 crore project GAGAN (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation), yesterday commenced the process of its Final System Acceptance Test (FSAT). (7/18)

A Tale of Two Space Programs (Source: Iowa State Daily)
July 2 marked an embarkation point for NASA when Director Robert Cabana, Deputy Director Lori Garver, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, showcased the new Orion spacecraft, which is supposed to eventually carry sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to the Red Planet, Mars. Yet, the latest information that ABC, the BBC, CBS, CNN, The New York Times, and the Washington Post carried on NASA’s Orion project is from last year.

If you want to learn about our progress at exploring new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no man has gone before, you have to read NASA’s own announcement about the unveiling or read the story written by WPTV, the NBC affiliate television station in West Palm Beach, Florida. Not even NPR, which usually reports on public-interest matters, had anything to say.

Why should they? For 40 years, the United States has not sent a human being out of low-Earth orbit. According to 2010 Census data, nearly 146.3 million of the 308.7 million Americans living today were not alive then, in 1972. Nearly half the United States population has grown up, lived and begun to have families of their own without an opportunity to see a man or woman actually travel away from this world. Click here. (7/18)

LinkIntergalactic Travel to Lift Off in Houston? Bigwigs Beam Up Warp-Speed Plan (Source: Houston Culture Map)
Outside the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, there aren't many serious conversations about warp-speed engines, asteroid mining and exoplanets... That is, unless you're at an event sponsored by the 100 Year Starship (100YSS) initiative, a new non-governmental program dedicated to ensuring human travel outside the solar system within a century's time.

At the helm of the ambitious project is physician and former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, who joined Mayor Annise Parker at a 100YP press conference Monday morning at the National Center for Behavioral Health in the Texas Medical Center to announce the official launch of the initiative as well as an upcoming public symposium in Houston in September. (7/18)

Iranian Space Agency Invited By ISRO To Cospar Space Meet (Source: Asian Scientist)
Iran is the only country whose space agency is represented at a space exhibition taking place this week in India.
The exhibition has been organized as part of the 39th scientific assembly of the Committee on Space Research (Cospar). Though nearly 2,500 space scientists from 74 countries are participating in the nine-day international space meet, the Iranian Space Agency, however, is the only foreign space organization which has a presence at the exhibition which opened yesterday.

This can be interpreted as sending a strong signal to those countries which are somewhat opposed to India’s friendship with Iran. The Iranian presence is therefore, not entirely without political overtones. The Iranian space program has been condemned by the US and Europe because of their concern over its military potential. “We are ready to co-operate and discover the universe. Our space program is completely peaceful. The Iranian Space Agency consists of scientists who are not political,” said Shahram Yazdanpanah. (7/18)

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