July 3, 2012

Physicists Find New Particle, But Is It The Higgs? (Source: Nature)
Physicists in Europe will present evidence of an entirely new particle on Wednesday, Nature has learned. But more data will be needed to officially confirm whether it is indeed the long-awaited Higgs boson — the particle thought to be behind the mass of all the others. Even as rumours fly in the popular media, physicists have begun quietly cheering at CERN, the European particle-physics lab near Geneva in Switzerland. “Without a doubt, we have a discovery,” says one member of the team working on the ATLAS experiment. “It is pure elation!” (7/3)

CBO: Senate Defense Bill Adds More Than It Cuts (Source: The Hill)
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the Senate’s 2013 Defense Authorization bill would cost $634 billion. The total includes $543 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Defense and nuclear weapons programs in the Department of Energy and $89 billion in war funding, almost all of it in Afghanistan. CBO says the authorization bill would increase costs in the next three years by $42 billion, assuming appropriators go along with the Armed Services plans.

Senate authorizers clipped $5 billion from DOD's personnel coffers and an additional $6 billion from the department's procurement accounts. Over 10 years, direct spending such as on the military healthcare system is reduced by just $75 million, CBO says. Lawmakers also took $3 billion from military construction funds and finally axed $2 billion from DOD's research and procurement accounts. Those cuts, however, were offset by a $14 billion funding increase to pay for operations and maintenance of the Pentagon's current arsenal. (7/3)

GeoEye Set To Cultivate Commercial Sales (Source: Aviation Week)
GeoEye, a provider of high-resolution optical imagery to the intelligence community, is building an $800 million satellite scheduled to be lofted next year for a U.S. government customer that may not be able to use it. In June the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) notified GeoEye it would be unable to co-finance construction and launch of the GeoEye-2 commercial remote-sensing spacecraft beyond $181 million already appropriated by Congress.

Without U.S.-government waivers issued on a case-by-case basis, GeoEye is restricted from selling anything better than 50-cm-resolution imagery to commercial or international customers. O'Connell says the company already “fuzzes” its high-resolution optical data products to distort resolution for commercial and international sales. Another option is to raise the orbit of a satellite, which affords more imagery at diminished resolution. But it could also lower NGA's interest in GeoEye's products, O'Connell says.

“The more likely scenario is we negotiate a waiver for some of our biggest military customers and allow them to engage in contracts similar to what the NGA had for certain hotspot areas,” O'Connell says. But the competitive landscape for GeoEye is more challenging now that its long-term competitor, Astrium GEO-Information Services, is taking delivery of two high-resolution Pleiades Satellites. With a ground sampling resolution of 70 cm, Pleiades will put Astrium on better footing to compete globally. Astrium also plans to loft its Spot 6 and 7 satellites in the coming year to provide imagery at 2.5-5-meter resolution. (7/3)

Kratos Nabs Contract for Africasat-1a Gear, Acquires Drone Maker (Source: Space News)
Kratos Defense and Security Solutions’ Integral Systems division will provide tracking and telemetry gear to satellite fleet operator Measat of Malaysia to facilitate use of the Africasat-1a satellite scheduled for launch later this year. San Diego, Calif.-based Kratos has booked multiple contracts with Asian satellite operators in recent months, including a sale of Earth station hardware to AsiaSat of Hong Kong; and to Asia Broadcast Satellite of Hong Kong. (7/3)

Galileo Placeholder Satellite Giove-A To Be Retired (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Giove-A navigation satellite, which was built on a shoestring budget almost as an afterthought but ended up saving precious broadcast-frequency rights for the coming Galileo constellation, is being retired, the 19-nation European Space Agency (ESA) announced. Launched in December 2005 on what was supposed to be a 27-month mission, Giove-A took on crucial importance when the larger Giove-B, built by a different industrial consortium, fell behind schedule. It was Giove-A that preserved Europe’s priority rights to use radio spectrum needed for what is intended to be a 30-satellite Galileo constellation. (7/3)

Running on Empty (Source: ESA)
From our viewpoint, geostationary satellites appear to sit in one place. That means antennas on the ground only have to be set up once to establish a connection. But geostationary satellites are not as stationary as you might think. They actually drift a little every day under the complicated gravitational dance of the Sun, Moon and Earth’s bulging shape. This drifting can mean big problems for telecom satellites.

Out of position, services can be compromised or even lost – and what’s more frustrating than losing the signal in the middle of watching an exciting television broadcast? To ensure that services aren’t interrupted, small thrusters are fired by ground controllers to maintain position. Satellites now carry enough propellant to stay in place for at least 15 years. But there comes a day when the fuel runs low. There are no refuelling stations in space, so controllers prolong the life of a satellite by letting it drift naturally north and south of the Equator.

This means it gradually drifts into an inclined orbit. The satellite can continue to work normally for a long time like this, but tracking it is more complicated and expensive, although operators sell capacity on these satellites at extremely affordable rates. Yellowsat, a small start-up company in France, approached ESA with an answer that makes it easier for smaller antennas to follow satellites in inclined orbits. Click here. (7/3)

Could We Build 'Star Trek's' Starship Enterprise? (Source: Space.com)
Recently, an anonymous engineer claimed that an approximation of the iconic Starship Enterprise could be built in the next two decades. But just how close is mankind to zipping through the stars at warp speed? On the website BuildTheEnterprise.org, a self-proclaimed engineer who identifies himself only as "BTE-Dan" suggests that a working facsimile of the iconic ship could be built and launched over the next 20 to 30 years. The ship would require a few modifications, but would look a great deal like Captain Kirk's famous ship.

Built in space, the ship would never visit the surface of any moon or planet, and so would never need to reach the high speeds necessary to escape surface gravity. The engines would be powered by nuclear reactors onboard the ship, and use argon rather than xenon for propellant, saving a few hundred billion dollars in cost. As an added bonus, BTE-Dan notes that argon can be mined from the atmosphere of Mars. Click here. (7/3)

Orbital Clears Path Toward More Wallops Launches (Source: DelmarVaNow.com)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has successfully completed contract negotiations to add the Antares rocket to NASA’s list of approved launch vehicles under the NASA Launch Services program. It is a first step toward getting additional contracts for Antares in the future, beyond the company’s current $1.9 billion contract with NASA for cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.

“It potentially could mean more Antares launches from Wallops if our rocket is selected to carry out the launch of a science satellite for NASA, a noncargo mission whose orbit is compatible with a launch from Wallops,” said Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski. But he said the so-called “on-ramping” of Antares onto the NASA Launch Services program, while it puts the vehicle on the list of approved rockets from which NASA can choose, does not in itself add any firm contracts.

Launch vehicles that have qualified under the NLS program “have completed stringent technical and pricing reviews,” according to a news release from Orbital Sciences. Antares joins other Orbital rockets, as well as vehicles from other providers, in the NLS program. Orbital rockets already have carried out 27 successful missions for NASA since 1996 under the NLS program and other contracts. Those include the recent successful launch of a Pegasus rocket carrying the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array satellite into orbit in June. (7/3)

Boeing to Begin Joint Manufacturing Research in Japan (Source: Space Daily)
Boeing and its three major Japanese airframe partners - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries - have announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS), the University of Tokyo. Under the MOU, the parties will commence joint research and work to create a consortium to develop industrial-scale manufacturing technology and processes, in a new model of academic-industry cooperation. (7/3)

First Annual International Space Station R&D Conference in Review (Source: NASA)
Roughly 400 scientists, engineers, students, industry leaders and business representatives gathered last week to participate in the 1st Annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference, organized by the American Astronautical Society and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Inc., or CASIS, in cooperation with NASA.

The event took place June 26-28 in Denver, Colo., showcasing the full breadth of research and technology development on the space station; past, present and future. Because most scientific conferences focus on one discipline, this was a highly anticipated opportunity for attendees to hear results from multidisciplinary space station studies in the areas of physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and spacecraft technology.

Editor's Note: Faculty and students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University participated, with discussions toward flying some research projects on the International Space Station in the near future. (7/3)

One Small Step for Space Tech, One Giant Step for Space Policy (Source: World Policy Journal)
President Barack Obama’s opponents have roundly criticized him for being a strong government advocate who doesn’t understand the importance of the private sector. Yet it is during his presidency that we have reversed decades of government-centric space policy by actively encouraging a wider role for free enterprise in Low Earth Orbit. Specifically, the administration confirmed that private companies like SpaceX would provide the spacecraft that resupply the space station and eventually send American astronauts there.

The politics of the situation created some strange bedfellows, with conservative Republicans lobbying to continue what amounted to a massive government program. Some Apollo astronauts entered the fray and argued against the new policy in part because it abandoned a return to the moon.

When covering the transformation of the space program, the media got it wrong by amplifying the negative comments and overlooking the positive aspects of the new policy. As a result, I found that many people would say to me, “Oh, you’re interested in space exploration? Too bad we don’t have a space program any more.” What these people did not realize is that the U.S. does have a space program, it’s just very different from the old one. The new space policy is better suited to an age of budget austerity and the idolization of the entrepreneur. Click here. (7/3)

A Private Effort to Watch the Skies (Source: Space Review)
A private foundation last week announced plans to mount its own deep space mission to look for near Earth objects that could pose an impact risk. Jeff Foust examines the plans of the B612 Foundation and finds it may be the latest evidence of a shift in space activities to a new funding approach with deep historical roots. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2111/1 to view the article. (7/2)

Divining Meaning From a Divine Vessel's Latest Flight (Source: Space Review)
The recent flight of China's Shenzhou-9 spacecraft has raised new questions about both China's space ambitions and their implications for the United States. Jeff Foust reports on what a recent panel of Chinese and space policy experts thought about what impact, if any, China's recent accomplishments could have on American policy. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2110/1 to view the article. (7/2)

Liberty's Unique Cargo Configuration (Source: ATK)
ATK's Liberty launch system will have an expanded crew and cargo capability. The extended cargo configuration will allow the Liberty spacecraft to take full advantage of the launch vehicle lift capacity to transport a pressurized pod (the Liberty Logistics Module or LLM) along with the composite crew module. Based on NASA’s 15-foot diameter Multi-Purpose Logistic Module design, the LLM will include a common berthing mechanism and will be capable of transporting up to 5,100 pounds of pressurized cargo. With that capability, the LLM could be used to transport four full-size science racks to the International Space Station – along with a team of scientists to perform the associated science. Click here. (7/3)

Fledgling NASA Nonprofit Starts To Liftoff (Source: NPR)
A new nonprofit organization that's supposed to take charge of expanding scientific research on the international space station has had a rocky first year, but now is starting to show what it can do. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space just signed one agreement with a company not traditionally linked to research in space: the sporting goods company Cobra Puma Golf.

With the space station now complete after more than a decade of construction at a cost of around $100 billion, attention has turned to how to best use the station. CASIS was established to drum up interest in doing experiments by folks outside of NASA, including people who work at private companies, universities, or other federal agencies. Or, as CASIS puts it in a promotional video, the mission is to "seek out those ready to put their ideas into orbit and to get them there." Click here. (7/3)

Boeing, Lockheed in Talks with Russia's Energia for Capsule Work (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Energia space corporation is holding talks with U.S. aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin over manufacture of docking sites and thermal protection equipment for space capsules for the U.S. firms. "We are in talks with Boeing and Lockheed to make unified interfaces for our products. They are ready to discuss various opportunities, even to allow us to make component parts," said Vitaly Lopota. The component parts will be made for Boeing's CST-100 seven-seater spacecraft, designed for short-distance flights to the International Space Station from 2015, and for the $8 billion Orion long-distance spaceship, designed by Lockheed Martin. (7/3)

NASA's Orion Capsule bBeing Built at KSC (Source: WFTV)
NASA's Orion capsule is expected to carry astronauts farther than ever before, officials said. About 350 jobs have been created at the Kennedy Space Center. The capsule is not built out yet. In fact, NASA was celebrating the arrival of the core of the capsule. The Orion capsule is the first spacecraft ever to be assembled at the space center. The wiring, computers and the heat shield will all be added onto the capsule's skeleton over the next 16 months, officials said. Then it will be put on top of a Delta IV rocket for the first Orion test flight in 2014. (7/3)

NASA's Michoud Workers Show Off Orion (Source: WVUE)
NASA's Michoud plant workers get the attention of the entire nation with the debut of their new Orion capsule. They showed off the capsule at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Monday. The new capsule, which is built at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, is likely to send humans to the moon and Mars in the future. The next step for Orion includes having NASA engineers install hardware and components in preparation for a test flight. (7/3)

Solar Fireworks for July 4 (Source: MSNBC)
The sun sent out a flare powerful enough to disrupt radio communications over Europe today, along with an eruption of electrically charged particles that just might sweep past Earth's magnetic field in time to spark a Fourth of July show of auroral fireworks. The M5.6-class solar flare, observed by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory at 6:52 a.m. ET (10:52 GMT), was almost powerful enough to cross over from the medium M-class category to an extreme X-class event, SpaceWeather.com's Tony Phillips noted. "A pulse of X-rays and UV radiation from the flare illuminated Earth's upper atmosphere, producing waves of ionization over Europe," he wrote. (7/3)

Garver: Even Brighter Future Ahead for KSC (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
"Lift off." For 50 years those words have not only signaled another launch from Kennedy Space Center, they have symbolized America's unquestioned leadership in the exploration of our solar system. This week, as KSC celebrates its 50th anniversary, we have more evidence that its future will be even brighter.

President Obama has set a goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. Congress agreed that the best way to do that was for NASA to let our industry partners take the lead on delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations so that we could concentrate on building America's next generation exploration system, the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System. It is estimated that final construction and integration work on Orion will support at least 350 Space Coast jobs.

Our new strategy is producing tangible results. In May, SpaceX became the first private company to launch from Cape Canaveral, dock to the space station and return its Dragon 9 capsule safely back to Earth. And President Obama has proposed $500 million in investments in NASA's 21st century Space Launch Complex, including millions to transform KSC's launch infrastructure for government and commercial users. With new missions and infrastructure improvements in the works, we are confident that the road to space will continue to go through KSC. (7/3)

Europe Forges Ahead in Space (Source: Flight Global)
For the European Space Agency, 2012 has been a year that opened with great success with the maiden flight of its all-new light launcher Vega, and has moved into a phase of preparation for an ambitious programme of science and exploration, along with the exploitation of space assets. Four key areas of activity are in focus: access to space, navigation, Earth observation and deep space exploration.

When he declared 2011 to be ESA's "year of launchers", agency director general Jean-Jacques Dordain hoped to have three rockets flying from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana during the year: the heavy-lifter Ariane 5 and two newcomers, the Russian middle-weight Soyuz and ESA's own Vega. But while Soyuz entered service as planned in October 2011, Vega's first flight was pushed back to February of this year. However, any disappointment was washed away by the flight.

A resounding triumph, especially as two-thirds of maiden launches end in failure, the flight successfully orbited its scientific payloads and validated a range of innovative technologies including new avionics, one of the largest one-piece carbonfibre structures in production and a capability of de-orbiting the final booster stage after payload delivery, to minimize the launcher's contribution to the problem of orbiting debris - which experts regard as a near-crisis issue. Click here. (7/3)

Lack of Support for Space Programs Threatens Innovation (Source: Daily Wildcat)
Space programs haven’t exactly been at the forefront of American concerns in recent years. After Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969, the average American’s interest in exploring the depths of our solar system slowly waned away and the federal government’s funding for space programs faded with it. Today, we still lead the world in space technology, but the gap between us and our competitors is rapidly closing.

The United States is doing little to maintain its leadership role. We have consistently whittled NASA’s budget over the years down to 0.5 percent of the federal budget, compared to 1966 when it was 4.4 percent, and we are promoting private corporations to carry NASA’s torch. As it stands today, we even depend on Russia, who spends less than 25 percent as much as us on space programs, to send American astronauts to space due to the space shuttle’s retirement.

While China’s exploration into space will inevitably benefit our understanding of the universe as a whole, the United States should nonetheless support and fund American space technology and push private corporations to be ambitious, lest it risk losing the immense technological innovations that space exploration and research produce. In reality, the agency’s projects have led to hundreds of inventions each year that have played a critical role in research regarding space. (7/3)

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