July 19, 2012

Russia to Increase Number of Civilian Spacecraft to 180 by 2030s (Source: Interfax-AVN)
The Russian orbital constellation of satellites performing socio-economic and research functions will amount to180 satellites by the 2030s, in addition to military satellites, said Gennady Raikunov, the general director of the Central Machinery Building Research Institute (TSNIIMASH). "The country's need for using spacecraft for the socio-economic sector and the research community envisions intensive development of the orbital constellation. The target for the period up to the 2030s is the deployment and maintenance of a constellation numbering about 180 spacecraft," he said. (7/19)

Pentagon Has No Sequester "Plan B," Official Says (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon isn't readying a contingency plan to deal with sequestration cuts, says Kathleen Hicks, the Defense Department's principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. "We do not have a Plan B," Hicks said. "Our plan is the budget we presented to the U.S. Congress. That, we believe, marks the responsible contribution by the Department of Defense to debt reduction." (7/19)

Sequestration Could Cut FAA Budget by $1B, Hamper NextGen (Source: ATM.net)
The effect of sequestration on the Federal Aviation Administration could amount to $1 billion in cuts, which would cripple NextGen initiatives, says Richard Efford, a legal affairs chief at the Aerospace Industries Association. "AIA believes that as a result of sequestration, NextGen could lose 30-50% of its funding, not the 8% many believe," Efford said. (7/18)

Commercial Sales Boost Honeywell Profit (Source: Bloomberg)
Fueled by commercial sales, aerospace supplier Honeywell International has reported second-quarter net income of $902 million, or $1.14 a share, up from $810 million, or $1.02 a share, a year earlier. The results beat analysts' estimates and contributed to a wider profit margin at company. (7/18)

NASA Giving KSC Visitors Up-Close Access to Launch Pad for First Time (Source: KSCVC)
For the first time in the 50-year history of Kennedy Space Center, NASA on Friday will begin allowing public visitors to tour one of the launch pads from which the space shuttles and Apollo Saturn V moon rockets were launched. The KSC Up-Close: Launch Pad Tour, the latest to open of three special Kennedy Space Center 50th anniversary rare-access tours, takes visitors from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex inside the highly secure Launch Complex 39.

Guided by a knowledgeable space expert, visitors will travel nearly a quarter-mile inside the perimeter security fence to Launch Pad 39-A, from which a majority of space shuttles and all six Apollo missions that landed on the moon were launched. Near the launch pad, visitors will exit the tour bus for photo opportunities, including close views of the 350-foot-high fixed service structure, rotating service structure, propellant storage containers, water tanks that feed the noise suppression system, flame trench and other aspects of the launch pad complex. (7/19)

Space Goals Among Top Science Issues for 2012 Presidential Campaign (Source: Science Debate)
ScienceDebate.org invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail. ScienceDebate then worked with the leading US science and engineering organizations to refine the questions and arrive at a universal consensus on what the most important science policy questions facing the United States are in 2012.

Ranked at number 12 is the space question: "The United States is currently in a major discussion over our national goals in space. What should America's space exploration and utilization goals be in the 21st century and what steps should the government take to help achieve them?" Click here. (7/19)

Let's Talk About: NASA Spinoffs (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
NASA spinoffs are products that were developed from the same technologies that launched satellites into space, put men on the moon and built the space station. These products have found their way into our lives, from invisible dental braces to portable cordless vacuums. During the Apollo program, astronauts needed portable self-contained drills to extract samples below the moon's surface.

Black & Decker used a specially developed computer program to enhance the design of the drill's motor to ensure minimal power consumption. Refinement of this technology also led to the development of a cordless miniature vacuum cleaner called the Dustbuster. Other home-use cordless tools that have evolved from that technology include drills, shrub trimmers and grass shears.

One of the most successful orthodontic products ever introduced is also a NASA spinoff. Using material originally incorporated in missile tracking devices, a company working with NASA invented translucent ceramic dental braces. The latest spinoffs produced by NASA include a new firefighting system, influenced by a NASA-derived rocket design that extinguishes fires more quickly than traditional systems, saving lives and property. Click here. (7/19)

Boeing Exec Tells Senate Panel To Invest In NASA Research (Source: OPB)
A top Boeing executive is urging Congress to increase the budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Boeing Chief Technology Officer John Tracy said in a Senate hearing that NASA’s shrinking budget hurts the company’s ability to develop new products. He says Boeing relies on NASA to research everything from unmanned aerial vehicles to composite materials used in airplanes. And, the European Union is outspending the U.S. by ten to one. (7/19)

Aerospace Industry Fears Looming Defense Cut, Lack of R&D (Source: Seattle Times)
Sen. Maria Cantwell opened a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday afternoon to explore how Boeing and other American aerospace companies can fend off rising competition from China, Brazil, Europe and other global rivals. But earlier in the day, on the other side of the Capitol, U.S. aerospace executives testified about a more immediate threat from home — the looming $1.2 trillion in automatic federal spending cuts over 10 years that would eliminate scores of defense-related jobs.

The dueling House and Senate hearings offered a real-time view of the ways that Congress sometimes seems to work at cross-purposes. At a morning hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, the heads of Lockheed Martin, EADS North America and two other defense contractors vented their frustration over the automatic spending cuts that will kick in Jan. 2 unless Congress can agree to an alternative.

One witness, Pratt & Whitney President David Hess, went as far as to suggest that Congress consider raising taxes to minimize budget reductions. Democrats and Republicans have been deadlocked for a year on how to implement deep cuts that the GOP extracted last summer as part of the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling. The automatic cuts, split evenly between defense and nondefense programs, were intended as a poison pill to spur a bipartisan "supercommittee" — co-led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. — to forge a more sensible alternative. (7/19)

FDOT Role Explored in KSC's Spaceport Renewal (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Located between the current HQ building and the Operations & Checkout (O&C) building on D Avenue, Central Campus Phase 1 will be a 200,000 square foot facility that consolidates shared services, data centers, and office space in the Industrial Area. Central Campus Phase 2 is a 150,000 square foot facility that will be integrated to the east side of Phase 1 and provides additional office space. When Phase 2 begins, the current HQ Building will be demolished.

The Central Campus project was originally planned for implementation in four phases over eight years starting in FY2012. The plan included replacement and consolidation of ten buildings in the Industrial Area and a complete gut-and-renovate of the O&C South Wing, a process which has already taken place on the North Wing in preparation for the future KSC programs.

This plan was modified based on restrictions in the subsequent NASA budgets, with planners then involved in discussions with Florida’s Department of Transportation, exploring partnering arrangements for upkeep and perhaps the eventual improvements of some of Kennedy’s roads, particularly the four bridges currently under the center’s care, with the aim to free up NASA’s resources for other infrastructure upgrades at the center. Click here. (7/19)

Embry-Riddle Grad Named FCPA Student of the Year for Extensive Co-op Experience at NASA (Source: Embry-Riddle)
Recent Embry-Riddle graduate Adam Naids has triumphed over numerous nominees from other Florida colleges and universities to win the Florida Career Professionals Association’s 2012 Student of the Year Award. As an additional honor, aspiring astronaut Naids will receive his FCPA crystal sculpture award next month at Johnson Space Center (JSC) from NASA astronaut Nicole Stott – an Embry-Riddle alumna and trustee.

Naids, who earned a B.S. in engineering physics at Embry-Riddle, is currently completing his NASA summer co-op at JSC and will begin working there full time in September, helping to develop tools for use on the International Space Station, the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) and future space vehicles. “I’m really excited to get involved in such groundbreaking work,” he said. “And as someone whose ultimate goal is to become an astronaut, there is no better place for me to start off working.” (7/19)

What Space Smells Like (Source: The Atlantic)
When astronauts return from space walks and remove their helmets, they are welcomed back with a peculiar smell. An odor that is distinct and weird: something, astronauts have described it, like "seared steak." And also: "hot metal." And also: "welding fumes." Our extraterrestrial explorers are remarkably consistent in describing Space Scent in meaty-metallic terms. "Space," astronaut Tony Antonelli has said, "definitely has a smell that's different than anything else." Space, three-time spacewalker Thomas Jones has put it, "carries a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acrid smell." (7/19)

Russia Starts Building Moon Spaceship, Eyes Lunar Base (Source: Xinhua)
Russia has started building a spacecraft for manned Lunar missions with the first test scheduled in 2015, the project developer said Thursday. "The work has already started. The unmanned tests are scheduled in 2015, the first manned mission is planned in 2018," head of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building Gennady Raikunov told local media. These spaceships are designed to land on and lift off from the Moon, work as space tug boats and service modules for other space vehicles, Raikunov said.

"Roscosmos has planned the creation of a new manned transportation system to conduct manned flights to the Moon, servicing the vehicles in space," he said. Raikunov linked the Lunar program to the fate of Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS). Whether Russia will continue the ISS work after 2020 depends on the progress of the Lunar program. "It is necessary to determine the main direction of manned cosmonautics development. Current strategy envisages focusing on the manned flights to the Moon, including the creation of a base on its surface," he said. (7/19)

How to Build a Middleweight Black Hole (Source: AMNH)
A new model shows how an elusive type of black hole can be formed in the gas surrounding their supermassive counterparts. Scientists propose that intermediate-mass black holes can grow in the gas disks around supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. The physical mechanism parallels the model astrophysicists use to describe the growth of giant planets in the gas disks surrounding stars. (7/19)

Russia Looks To Cut Soyuz, Progress Trip Times To ISS (Source: Aviation Week)
Russia is looking at a possible significant reduction in Soyuz crew transport flight times to the International Space Station — a 6-hr. launch to docking as opposed to the current 50-hr. transit. Late on July 17, the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle boosted the station’s mean altitude by just more than 3 mi., setting up an Aug. 1 trial run of the prospect with an unpiloted 48 Progress mission.

If the Progress test is successful, a Soyuz crew may attempt the accelerated trajectory next year. “One possible solution is to condense the rendezvous timeline down to four orbits instead of the normal 34. This test with the Progress is going to use an unmanned vehicle to test the trajectory they would use for that.” (7/19)

Plans to Revisit Moon Impeded by Financial Difficulties (Source: Voice of Russia)
The Moon is in the center of Russian space plans that have undergone serious changes since the failure of Phobos-Grunt. Luna-Glob and Luna-Resurs missions (the latter together with India) are expected to be launched approximately five years from now. The proponents of Moon exploration point out that these lunar missions are scientifically interesting and technologically challenging, thus giving an opportunity to restore space technologies that were lost during previous decades.

By going in line with other space powers, it raises good opportunities for international collaboration. That is supposed to be the only viable way to colonize the Moon. However, the same problems – lack of strategy and finance – are haunting Russian space research as much as everyone else, even though the situation seems to be slightly improving. Starting a long-term project might be a good boost for science as well as for industry, provided that there is regular funding and a consistent plan. Hopefully, the next few years will bring more clarity. (7/19)

KSC All-Hands: Spaceport Must Continue to Adapt to NASA Changes (Source; NasaSpaceFlight.com)
KSC Director Bob Cabana has stated his world famous spaceport must continue to adapt and respond to Agency changes, although he remains buoyant about the center’s strategic role over the coming years, as part of NASA’s evolution and long term exploration plan. The former Shuttle Commander made his rallying call at this month’s All Hands meeting in Florida.

A major part of adapting to the future is already in work, as efforts continue to transition KSC into a multi-user facility. With one of the Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs) already being converted for use by Boeing and their CST-100 spacecraft, KSC expect to hand over the remaining two OPFs to similar companies. The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is also being transitioned from hosting Space Shuttle hardware to the multi-use of its High Bays, where notional graphics show a Space Launch System being processed alongside an Atlas V with a crew transport – although there are no firm plans for Atlas Vs to be hosted at KSC.

In fact, only one of the Commercial Crew competitors--ATK's Liberty--has shown a commitment to using KSC’s facilities. Liberty would be integrated in the VAB and rolled out to the clean pad at 39B. With ATK claiming they are committed to Liberty, regardless of the outcome of NASA funding to transport astronauts to the ISS, 39B should enjoy hosting at least two vehicles, with SLS launching in 2017. At present, no plans have been mentioned for 39A, which continues to be a mothballed Shuttle pad since hosting its final orbiter, Atlantis, for her STS-135 mission. Click here. (7/19)

NASA Tours Resume in Huntsville After 11 Years (Source: Huntsville Times)
It's one small step off a bus for men, women and children and one giant leap for space history in Huntsville. Forty-three years after men stepped foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, visitors to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center will be able to walk on the ground at the Marshall Space Flight Center beginning Friday. Bus tours of Marshall, where Wernher von Braun built the rockets that carried man into space and to the moon, were routine until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011. That's when commanders at Redstone Arsenal, where Marshall is located, stopped tours to secure the base. (7/19)

Orbital’s Antares Rocket in for Further Delays (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket builder Orbital Sciences Corp. on July 19 said its Antares rocket had encountered six or seven weeks of developmental delays and will not conduct its inaugural demonstration flight until late September or early October, with a second launch — this time carrying the Cygnus cargo vehicle to the international space station — likely in mid-December. (7/19)

Orbital Pursued/Abandoned Acquisition (Source: Space News)
Orbital said it spent $2.1 million in the three months ending June 30 on legal and other professional services fees related to a major acquisition that ultimately was not consummated because it was too expensive. Industry officials had long speculated that Orbital would be in the hunt to purchase Space Systems/Loral, a builder of large telecommunications satellites whose product line has only a few overlaps with Orbital’s commercial satellite business, which specializes in smaller spacecraft. Space Systems/Loral was purchased in late June by MDA Corp. of Canada for about $1.1 billion.

Editor's Note: Given the odd on-again/off-again news of an impending mystery acquisition of Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne, perhaps Orbital was among the early suiters for this deal, rather than a purchase of Loral's satellite business. (7/19)

Orbital Reports Quarterly Financial Progress (Source: Space News)
Orbital reported that for the three months ending June 30, revenue was up 6 percent, to $371.3 million. The biggest contributor to the increase was the company’s Advanced Space Programs division, which includes the CRS contract. An increase of $33 million in CRS revenue from NASA was the main driver of the division’s improved performance, which was up 29 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

The company’s Satellites and Space Systems division, which includes government and commercial satellites, reported a 6 percent decline in revenue, to $130.1 million, for the three months ending June 30. A decline in revenue from commercial geostationary-orbiting telecommunications satellites, which had been expected, was the main reason for the drop. (7/19)

Telespazio Wins $200M Italian Defense Contract for Spy Satellite (Source: Space News)
Telespazio of Rome will provide a high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite to the Italian Ministry of Defense under a contract valued at more than $200 million, with the satellite to be manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and launched in 2015, Telespazio and its parent company, Finmeccanica, announced July 19. Under the contract, Telespazio will oversee the construction of the Optsat satellite by IAI. (7/19)

Australian Military Picks ViaSat for Network Control Center (Source: Space News)
ViaSat Inc. will supply the network control center for the Australian Defence Ministry’s UHF-band satellite communications system under a contract valued at 38 million Australian dollars ($39.2 million) that ViaSat announced. The contract follows the completion of in-orbit tests of the Australian UHF payload that is hosted on commercial satellite fleet operator Intelsat’s IS-22 satellite, which was launched in March. (7/19)

United Tech in Talks to Sell Rocketdyne to GenCorp (Source: Reuters)
United Technologies Corp (UTX) is in final discussions to sell its Rocketdyne business to GenCorp Inc (GY), a maker of aerospace propulsion systems, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The deal, which may come late this week or early next week according to one of the sources, represents part of the diversified U.S. conglomerate's efforts to divest non-core units and focus on closing its $16.5 billion acquisition of aircraft component maker Goodrich Corp (GR).

The companies are still working out final details of the transaction and the talks could still fall apart, the people cautioned, asking not to be identified because the matter is not public. United Tech declined to comment, while GenCorp was not immediately available for comment. Rocketdyne, the world's largest manufacturer of liquid-fueled rocket propulsion systems, has been facing an uncertain outlook following the end of the U.S. space shuttle program last year. (7/18)

Cassini Spots 100-Mile-Wide Lightning Flashes on Saturn (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
For the first time in history, scientists have observed visible flashes of extraordinarily powerful lightning on the daytime side of Saturn. The achievement came from NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a storm on the ringed planet last year. "The fact that Cassini was able to detect the lightning means that it was very intense." (7/18)

U.S. Air Force Teams With Two Aussies for Mega-GPS (Source: WIRED)
How do a couple of bass-playing Australian entrepreneurs end up building an incredibly precise positioning system that the U.S. Air Force wants to use at its White Sands Missile Range? For starters, they work hard. And they don’t give up. Nunzio Gambale and David Small started out in the mid-1990s, trying to figure out a way to give ferries a way to automatically trigger audio files during Sydney Harbor tours. Now, 17 years later, they have built up a 34-person company called Locata that can deliver more accurate positioning data than the global positioning system (GPS) — at least over small swaths of land. Click here. (7/18)

NASA's Next Rover Will Hunt for Water on the Moon (Source: WIRED)
A joint project between the Kennedy Space Center and the Canadian Space Agency has yielded a lunar rover called Resolve which will search for water sources on the Moon. Resolve stands for "Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction", and is designed to prospect for areas that might be suitable for a permanent lunar outpost.

The aim is to create a robot that can be released onto the surface of the Moon and would periodically stop and drill into its upper surface to scan for water, minerals and other resources. Over the course of nine days, the rover would scan a wide area to see if there's enough accessible water to allow for a prolonged manned mission there. Click here. (7/18)

Private Space Exploration a Long and Thriving Tradition (Source: Bloomberg)
Branson, Musk, Allen, and Bezos are following in a grand tradition of private wealth furthering advances in rocketry and space exploration. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, private citizens raised money to promote Earth-based exploration of the stars. Charles Tyson Yerkes, a robber baron who transformed urban transportation, gave $300,000 to University of Chicago to establish an observatory.

James Lick, California’s richest man, left much of his considerable fortune to the University of California in 1876 to build an observatory with the world’s most powerful telescope. Philanthropists from Andrew Carnegie to John D. Rockefeller helped fund ever more elaborate technology for scanning the cosmos.

But when it came to actually putting a vehicle into space, Daniel Guggenheim stood alone. He and his family earned their millions in copper mining and other extractive endeavors. Taking over from their father, Guggenheim and his brothers expanded the family business, sometimes seeking new technologies to reduce costs. In 1924, Guggenheim and his wife, Florence, started a foundation, hoping to use their fortune to promote “the well-being of mankind throughout the world.” Click here. (7/19)

Big Rip Could End Universe, Says Nobel Laureate (Source: Adelaide Now)
Stars will disappear, the sun will go out and then the earth and our bodies will be ripped into pieces. This Big Rip, Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt says, might be the way our universe ends and it may happen "on literally a human time scale". At a public talk by the Australian Astronomical Observatory in Sydney on Wednesday night, Prof Schmidt - a joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics - described how our universe is rapidly expanding. The expansion, Prof Schmidt said, will eventually force our neighboring galaxy - Andromeda Spiral - to merge with our Milky Way in about three billion years. (7/19)

Enterprise Makes Public Debut in New York (Source: Newsday)
Now you can stand nose-to-nose with the 150,000-pound space shuttle Enterprise, whose scientific and engineering design broke atmospheric barriers that revolutionized space travel and exploration. The Enterprise is the first NASA shuttle, a prototype orbiter that glided through the air but never reached space, and it debuts Thursday to the public at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, where it will be a permanent exhibit. The Enterprise is inside a huge plastic bubble pavilion. Visitors will feel the shuttle's immensity when standing beneath its belly and alongside its wingspan. (7/19)

Orion Parachute Test at Deemed Successful (Source: Yuma Sun)
NASA engineers conducted another successful airdrop test of the Orion space capsule's descent and landing parachutes at Yuma Proving Ground early Wednesday morning. “From our visual — and it is a quick look from what we saw out here today — everything appeared to work perfectly,” said Jim McMichael, engineer and integration manager for NASA's capsule parachute assembly system (CPAS). “All the parachutes we were expecting worked, and the sequence looked right, so it looks like a good successful test for us.” (7/18)

US Keeps Eye on China's Space Program (Source: Perth Now)
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." China's space program does have civilian applications, and a nation can make significant technological advances from knowledge gained through space exploration.

The U.S. also remains the international leader in space. But as the American program shifts direction and China's advances, should the U.S. be worried about a threat to its security? According to an April report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional commission, the answer is: maybe. "While the overall level of its space technology may not match that of the U.S. and other space-faring nations, China's relative advances are significant," it said. "Even relative increases in Chinese space capabilities could present challenges for the U.S." (7/19)

Editorial: Handicapping NASA's Commercial Space Race (Source: NBC)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule have taken up most of the spotlight to date, thanks to May's successful cargo-carrying mission to the International Space Station. But this old curmudgeon sees the situation differently, as do some other longtime observers of the space program. The way it looks from here, Liberty is the best bet, with United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 a close second, and SpaceX third. Why?

Because Liberty draws upon three decades of tested technology: The rocket's first stage is a space shuttle solid rocket booster with five segments instead of four. The booster has had 221 successful launches in a row — the most ever. A version of Liberty was tested under the name Ares 1-X in 2009. Everything the launch system needs remains standing. Even the 600 high-tech workers whose jobs were outsourced to Russia since last year's retirement of the shuttle fleet are still in the neighborhood.

The launch vehicle, incorporating the solid-fuel first stage and an upper stage based on the tried-and-true Ariane 5 rocket, would be assembled here at Kennedy Space Center's massive Vehicle Assembly Building. Its service tower is here, too, paid for but never used. There's a crawler-transporter ready to carry it, a launch control center ready to monitor the countdown — and the same seaside launch pad used to launch Liberty's first version, the Ares 1-X. (7/18)

Choices Will Be Needed As ISS Fills Up (Source: Aviation Week)
Here is a scenario that might keep International Space Station managers up at night. A pharmaceutical researcher needs some ISS crew time to extract and prepare some large protein crystals grown in microgravity for a return to Earth on a SpaceX Dragon capsule. The capsule is filling up, and the crew is busy loading it with valuable “downmass” that is eagerly awaited on the ground.

Among the other space-generated samples ready to go are some coupons of advanced composite material that belong to a sporting goods company. The company needs the composites to open a new production line in its golf club factory. But the protein crystals may contain the key to developing a new molecule that inhibits the progression of Parkinson's Disease. There's only time and space for one more payload in the Earth-return capsule, so who sets the priority and how do they decide?

The question isn't far-fetched. Larry DeLucas, a researcher at the University of Alabama who flew protein-crystal growth experiments as a payload specialist on the STS-50 space shuttle mission aboard Columbia in June 1992, is already preparing to grow more protein crystals on the ISS. And the Center for the Advancement of Science In Space (CASIS), which runs the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the station, has just signed an agreement with Cobra Puma Golf to conduct materials research on the ISS. Click here. (7/16)

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