July 21, 2012

Test Result of H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 3 Second Stage Controlled Re-entry (Source: JAXA)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) would like to announce that we have confirmed that the second stage controlled re-entry test for the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No.3 (H-IIB F3) was conducted as planned by re-igniting the second stage engine for the second time after separating its payload, the KOUNOTORI3 (HTV3, a cargo transfer vehicle to the International Space Station). (7/21)

Three Space Mice Have Lots to Share About Astronaut Health (Source: Smart Planet)
As part of the Mice Drawer System Experiment, a group of 3 mice spent a record-breaking 91 days aboard the International Space Station… and lived to tell about it. What they experienced can help us understand the effects of long-term space travel on the human body, according to a collection of PLoS studies. New Scientist reports. Click here. (7/20)

Central Florida Still Hurting After Shuttle Shutdown (Source: NBC)
A year after NASA ended the space shuttle program, which crippled communities around Cape Canaveral that had grown dependent on government contracts, private spaceflight and other ventures are starting to fill the void. A decade ago, NASA's workforce was nearly twice its current size. But as the shuttle program wound down, about 7,400 contractors were shown the door. That opened what Sean Snaith, an economist and director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness, described as "a pretty big crater" in the region's economy.

NASA's layoffs coincided with the worst housing crisis to hit central Florida since the shutdown of the Apollo U.S. space program 40 years ago. But home sales and median prices have been picking up this year. Overall, the county's unemployment rate is 9 percent, down from a peak of 11.7 percent in August 2011, following the shuttle program layoffs, according to Snaith. The national jobless rate is 8.2 percent. Click here. (7/21)

Political Backlash After Shuttle Retirement (Source: NBC)
Much of the local backlash for canceling the shuttle program fell on President Barack Obama, even though the decision to retire the shuttles was made before the Democrat took office in January 2009. Since space is an integral part of central Florida's economy, that same backlash threatens to hurt Obama in his campaign for re-election on Nov. 6 against Republican rival Mitt Romney.

The so-called I-4 corridor region, spanning the interstate highway that cuts across Florida's midsection, is seen as home to many undecided voters in the battleground state. "If you're the incumbent when it hits the fan, you take the blame," said Dale Ketcham, a Florida space policy analyst who works with several business development and research agencies. "The I-4 corridor is the most important piece of political real estate in the country." (7/21)

Proton Rocket Launch with Two Satellites Likely to be Postponed (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center has said that the launch of the Proton-M rocket with two satellites - Telekom-3 and Express-MD2 is likely to be postponed. “So far there is the likelihood of the launch postponement until the beginning of August, but it has not been confirmed yet...There is a need to conduct additional checks,” representatives of the Khrunichev Center explained.

“Everything will become clear regarding the launch date by the weekend.” Initially, the launch of the Proton-M carrier rocket with the Breeze-M upper stage and two spacecraft - Telekom-3 and Express-MD2 was scheduled for July 26 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (7/20)

Did We Find Mars Life 36 Years Ago? (Source: Discovery)
As we count down to the much-anticipated landing of NASA's six-wheeled Mars Science Lab (MSL) on Aug. 5/6th, it's noteworthy that 36 years ago today mankind made the first successful touchdown on the Red Planet. The nuclear-powered Viking 1 lander settled down in a burst of retrorocket fire on a smooth circular plain close to the great volcanic Tharsis Bulge on July 20, 1976. Four billion years ago this region may have been a water-filled bay on Mars.

Viking's first black-and-white image of a footpad resting on an alien planet transfixed the world. Viking 1 was shutdown in 1982, but its legacy is as alive as ever today. Viking 1, and its sister robot, Viking 2, were the only two spacecraft ever dispatched to Mars with miniature onboard biological laboratories that performed the first in-situ experiments to find extraterrestrial life.

Though sending such a payload to what was then a largely unknown planet seemed premature, it does reflect NASA's aggressive spirit of exploration from the glory days of the 1960s and early 70s. One out of three independent miniature experiment labs aboard the Vikings yielded positive results, as established by the rules of its builders. The Viking lab measured a rapid increase in oxygen, carbon dioxide and some nitrogen when a soil sample was saturated with liquid nutrients that astrobiologists thought would be tasty to Mars microbes. (7/21)

Nixon's Contingency Plan for a Failed Apollo 11 (Source: Discovery)
So, what would have happened if, on July 21, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin packed up from their stay on the lunar surface, fired their LM ascent engine, and nothing happened? Collins orbiting in the CSM would have been helpless. There was no contingency for him to recover the LM with the CSM. It didn’t have that capacity. He would have followed orders and returned to Earth alone. President Nixon would have called the widows-to-be, Janet Armstrong and Marion Aldrin. He would then read a prepared statement to the world, and likely to the crew on the Moon as well. Click here. (7/21)

Raytheon Bids Alternative To Troubled Boeing FAB-T Development (Source: Aviation Week)
Nearly 10 years after it lost to Boeing in its original bid for the U.S. Air Force’s Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T), Raytheon may now get another shot at the estimated $4.7 billion program. FAB-T will facilitate communications between military aircraft and the Pentagon’s new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite constellation. Boeing won the initial $273 million contract in September 2002. But after a decade of cost overruns and schedule delays, the Air Force decided to restructure the contract earlier this year.

In June, Raytheon submitted proposals to the Air Force under the service’s FAB-T alternate program, which aims to provide a backup to the program of record while pressuring Boeing to keep development on track for initial operational capability by 2017 — three years after AEHF is scheduled to enter initial operational capability. Boeing, meanwhile, insists FAB-T development is all but complete. (7/21)

Follow the Money in the Commercial Space Race (Source: NBC)
NASA is closing out one chapter in the multibillion-dollar effort to create new fleets of spaceships, and getting ready to open the next one. Sometime in the next month or two, the space agency will pick up to three teams of companies to receive hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding for their spaceship development efforts. That's a lot of money — but it's important to keep all those expenditures in perspective. As an accompaniment to this week's series of commentaries about the commercial space race, here's a guide to what's gone on before and what's coming up. (7/21)

NASA History Now Available on iTunes U (Source: NASA)
Marking the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, NASA has added an extensive collection of historical video, audio, photographs and documents to iTunes U. iTunes U is a platform for making educational resources available to a wide audience through the iTunes Store. NASA's History Program Office iTunes U site currently contains about 300 items that represent a broad sweep of NASA history related to important moments, activities and figures in NASA history. The site's content is free to download. (7/21)

From the Earth to the Moon, Then Beyond (Source: NBC)
If the Earth-moon system is our home, shouldn’t we be caretakers of both worlds? You wouldn’t manicure your front yard and leave your back to become overgrown with weeds. Shouldn’t exploration of our own place and the Earth-moon system’s Lagrange points (all five of them) be our baby steps? Wouldn’t it be silly to go trotting off to asteroids and Mars, millions of miles away, before we knew our way around our own neighborhood?

As Neil Armstrong says, “The lunar vicinity is an exceptional location to learn about traveling to more distant places.” "The [International Space Station] is an ideal structure for accommodating people and cargo in a slow trip from the Earth to the moon. The house-size space platform could, after scouting the best places for humans to live on the lunar landscape, be used to help establish scientific outposts and to supply goods and people while teaching us how to go into, and how to live in space.

"And within a few years when we have the SLS heavy-lift rockets and the big Orion spacecraft we can go farther – as Neil Armstrong says, ‘Learning how to fly to, and remain at, the Earth-moon Lagrangian points would be a superb precursor to flying to, and remaining at, much farther distances.’” “The naysayers will surface immediately," McCall said, "but perhaps there will be enough qualified and competent forward thinkers to study the problems in a positive way and to accomplish one of the great future goals of humankind." (7/21)

Astrium To Provide Hardware for Lockheed-built Jabiru-1 Satellite (Source: Space News)
Astrium Satellites will provide Ku- and Ka-band payload hardware for the Jabiru-1 commercial telecommunications satellite being built for NewSat of Australia under a contract with Jabiru-1 prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The contract represents a breakthrough for Astrium’s product division, which is positioning itself to win business with Astrium Satellites’ prime contractor competitors in addition to providing in-house components for Astrium-built satellites. (7/20)

High-Power Interference Knocks out Transponders on Eutelsat 25A (Source: Space News)
A Eutelsat satellite over the Middle East that has been at the center of a conflict between the Paris-based fleet operator and the 21-nation Arabsat has been subjected to high-power interference that has knocked out a half-dozen transponders, Eutelsat and the French National Frequencies Agency said July 20. (7/20)

Satellite Operators Complete Interference Reduction Upgrade Ahead of Olympics (Source: Space News)
The world’s three biggest commercial satellite fleet operators and their major ground-hardware providers have completed the task of upgrading their Earth stations to permit them to identify the source of transmissions and reduce interference between satellites, the companies announced. (7/20)

Space-Awareness Data Sharing Grows Amid Complexities (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department is expanding efforts to share space situational awareness data with other governments and commercial satellite operators even as it continues to wrestle with barriers related to national security concerns as well as technical and cultural issues, U.S. military officials say.

There is widespread agreement that some level of cooperation among operators, even potentially adversarial ones, is necessary given the increased crowding in orbits used for critical applications including communications, navigation and weather forecasting. Not only is the number of operational satellites in these orbits increasing, so is the amount of debris that can be tracked but not controlled. (7/20)

FAA Commercial Space Office Navigates Legal Maze To Start Safety Dialog (Source: Space News)
When suborbital adventure line Virgin Galactic launches the world’s first commercial passenger-carrying spaceflight service next year, the U.S. government will still be barred from policing most of the company’s activities. But federal safety officials here, eager to learn more about the private space companies they will soon regulate, have decided to open talks with industry in August.

“We’re going to be setting up monthly public telephone calls to ask [industry] about certain topics,” Pam Melroy, former NASA astronaut and senior technical adviser in the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), said. “We do plan on having these once a month for the foreseeable future. We really want maximum participation, and we want technical people to really help us understand what the thinking is out there.”

The first of these public calls is slated for the first week of August, Melroy said. Just to open talks with industry, the AST has had to navigate a legal labyrinth. The massive FAA reauthorization bill Congress passed in January bars AST from writing human spaceflight safety regulations until October 2015 unless there is a serious accident or mishap involving a commercial flight before then. Click here. (7/20)

Vega Builders See Opportunity in Rising Russian Rocket Prices (Source: Space News)
The designers of Europe’s Vega small-satellite launch vehicle, surveying a commercial landscape that looks increasingly favorable to them, are planning three possible evolutions of the rocket to better align its cost and its capacity to its growing market. The current Vega is able to launch a 1,500-kilogram satellite into a 700-kilometer circular polar low Earth orbit.

Vega’s backers say the vehicle appears to be arriving at a time when converted ballistic missiles in Russia and Ukraine are no longer easily available as space launch vehicles. And when they are available, their price is increasing rapidly. The future of the Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket, for example, is unclear. A Russian submarine-launched rocket is no longer available. And SpaceX's Falcon-1 is temporarily unavailable.

Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Enrico Saggese conceded that the funding available at ESA for Vega upgrades will depend in part on what decision the agency takes regarding the future of Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket. ASI is financing a program that would replace Vega’s third and fourth stages with a stage powered by a liquid-propellant engine called Mira. Another modification would enhance Vega’s P-80 solid-fueled first stage, which carries some 88,000 kilograms of propellant, to 120,000 kilograms, increasing payload capacity to 1,800-2,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. Click here. (7/20) http://www.spacenews.com/launch/120720-vega-opportunity-rising-prices.html

Boeing Sues US Air Force for Rocket Refund (Source: Reuters)
Boeing is suing the U.S. Air Force, its biggest client, for $385 million it says it is owed for Delta IV rocket launch services. Boeing and the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture with Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT), filed a joint complaint on June 14 "to preserve their rights to recover these costs," Boeing said. At issue are "legitimate, allowable costs of the Delta IV program that Boeing incurred prior to the creation of ULA in 2006," said a spokeswoman.

The suit harks back to the creation of the Defense Department's awkwardly named Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The suit, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, says the Air Force had agreed to reimburse the costs at issue as part of efforts to win Boeing's continued participation in the EELV program after the Air Force opted to restructure it. Boeing conditioned its willingness to stick with it on recovery of certain costs incurred from 1998 to 2006, the suit said. (7/21)

Curious Kazakh Gopher Not Curious About Nearby Spaceships (Source: NPR)
How he got to live there, I don't know. For one thing he's a gopher, not a cosmonaut or a rocket engineer, just an ordinary Kazhakh rodent who dug himself a hole. The hole, however, is smack in the middle of a rocket launching facility, one of the most active spaceports in the world, called the Cosmodrome. Click here. (7/21)

AIAA to Discuss Relaunching American Exceptionalism (Source: AIAA)
On July 24 in Washington, a panel of experts will discuss the next steps in deep space exploration for the United States, and the barriers which must be overcome to make those steps successful. Possible exploration destinations, the future of international partnerships for exploration, fuel sources for exploration, robotic v. human exploration, and the medical barriers to exploration, will all be discussed. Panelists are from NASA, ATK, Lockheed Martin, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Click here. (7/21)

Rocket Launch From Wallops Postponed (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
NASA managers are rescheduling the launch of an inflatable heat shield technology demonstration flight from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility until no earlier than Sunday. The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment, or IRVE-3, launch was postponed for one day to allow for additional testing of launch vehicle systems. NASA has three consecutive days of launch opportunities for IRVE-3, with a liftoff window from 6 a.m.-8 a.m. each day. IRVE-3 is part of the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator Project within the Game Changing Development Program, part of NASA's Space Technology Program. (7/21)

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