July 7, 2012

U.S. Experts on China's Space Program Agree There Is No Race (Source: Space Policy Online)
China's successful Shenzhou-9 mission seems to have stirred interest in what impact, if any, China's space program should have on the U.S. space program. Several experts on Chinese space activities have spoken at public meetings or published op-ed pieces in the past two weeks weighing in on the topic. One issue on which they all agree is that there is no U.S.-China space race. Some U.S. space advocates have been attempting to reinvigorate NASA's activities by trying to resurrect the U.S.-Soviet space race paradigm of the 1960s that shaped the Apollo program.

At a Marshall Institute-TechAmerica Space Enterprise Council symposium on June 29, hours after Shenzhou-9 landed, Leslee Gilbert, Vice President, Van Scoyoc Associates, took the opposite view, pointing out that the American people do not seem to care about China's human spaceflight program. "China will have to do something new to get Americans' attention," she said, perhaps building a base on the Moon, but just going there would not be sufficient. The former staff director for the House Science, Space and Technology committee argued that China is "not leading, but following."

Noting that many people paint U.S.-China space relationships in an either-or framework -- either racing or cooperating -- she concludes neither is likely in the near future, especially with the strong opposition to cooperation voiced by Members of Congress like Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). Gilbert's major concern is that the American public lacks an "appetite for space" in general and "spurring a race with China won't fix it." That interest "has to come from within." Click here. (7/6)

Pakistan Seeks Greater Space Cooperation with China (Source: International News)
Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Thursday issued a message of greeting and felicitation to Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China Wen Jiabao on the occasion of the successful launch of the Shenzhou-IX spacecraft, and said Pakistan desired to enhance its cooperation with China in the field of space technology.

Ashraf specifically praised the scientists involved in the project, and in particular the three astronauts who had created history by manually docking the spacecraft with the Tiangong-I space lab module. The premier added that their professionalism and dedication in their chosen field was praiseworthy. “Excellency, we are proud that China is making rapid strides in the development of space technology which would bring enormous benefits for the whole world, especially the developing nations. China has always achieved in the shortest possible time what others have failed,” said the prime minister.

He added that Pakistan desired to forge closer space cooperation with China and learn from Beijing’s experience. “We are thankful to China for helping us build and launch the PAKSAT-IR satellite,” he said, “and hopefully, with your support we would be able to launch a Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite soon.” (7/6)

NASA Safety Panel Calls for Crew Risk Mitigation Via Debut SLS Mission (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) praised the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs for making “considerable progress” during their latest meeting, but called for managers to ensure the debut SLS flight – known as Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) – is heavily aimed at risk mitigation, ahead of the first crewed mission.

The ASAP met at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), under the chairmanship of Vice Admiral Joseph W. Dyer, USN (Ret.) – with the minutes of the meeting sent to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in June. The historically conservative body – known for raising flags on items such as Shuttle extension and elements of the commercial crew program – appear to be pleased with the opening development work on the Space Launch System, a program that is now into its first full year since being officially announced by NASA. Click here. (7/6)

Phoenix From The Ashes: The Fall and Rise of Pad 34 (Source: America Space)
In a barren area of Cape Canaveral stands a gaunt, concrete and steel hulk which once formed the launch platform of Pad 34. Today, overgrown by bushes, weeds and a handful of wild pepper trees, it steadily decays in the salty Atlantic air. A faded ‘Abandon In Place’ sign adorns one of its legs. Near its base are a pair of plaques, memorialising one of the site’s darkest days of trauma. The first one reads simply ‘Launch Complex 34, Friday 27 January 1967, 1831 Hours’ and dedicates itself to the first three astronauts of Project Apollo: Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

The second plaque pays tribute to their ‘ultimate sacrifice’ that January evening, long ago. Close by are three granite benches, one in honour of each fallen astronaut. Every year, NASA invites the families of the men to visit the spot and reflect upon the tragedy which engulfed them with such horrifying suddenness that Friday. To pause at Pad 34 and consider its significance is to consider the astonishing ability of America’s space program to rebound from this appalling disaster and plant human bootprints on the lunar surface, barely 30 months later. Click here. (7/7)

Astronomers Use Zeppelin to Hunt for Meteorites (Source: WIRED)
Hunting for meteorites may sound like a cool way to spend an afternoon, but imagine doing it from an airship. A couple weeks after a meteorite blazed to Earth April 22 over California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, a team of researchers flew aboard the commercial airship Eureka to try to search for pieces of the space rock. They flew in a German-built Zeppelin-NT, owned and operated by the company Airship Ventures and housed in one of NASA’s giant hangars at Moffett Field in California, the same airfield where the airship USS Macon (ZRS-5) was once based. (7/6)

XCOR's Multi-Million Dollar Deal Raising Concerns (Source: KOSA)
A space travel company wants to come to the Tall City but residents are concerned about the cost involved with bringing them here. Though leaders feel this company will help to diversify our economy, residents are wondering if the $10 million incentive that could be provided will payoff. "In case we have a downside in the oil business, we'll have something else to fall back on and other opportunities," said Michael Trost, Midland City Councilman and Midland Development Corporation Board Member.

Economic diversification and long-term sustainability is a goal for Tall City leaders. The Midland Development Corporation and City Council will be voting on a deal that involves offering a $10 million incentive to XCOR Aerospace for the company to move to the Tall City. The deal offers $2 million for XCOR to create their headquarters in Midland, $3 million to go toward improvements for a hanger near the airport and $5 million for performance incentives that would be awarded as the company meets certain performance benchmarks. (7/6)

Governor Rick Perry Will Be In Midland For XCOR Aerospace Announcement (Source: KOSA)
Governor Rick Perry will be in Midland on Monday to attend a press conference for a special announcement regarding XCOR Aerospace. The Governor will be in attendance along with XCOR Aerospace and community leaders. The press conference is scheduled for Monday, July 9, 2012 at Midland International Airport’s “Old Ami” Hangar at 11am. (7/6)

More on XCOR's Midland Deal (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt has been told that XCOR is planning to maintain a presence at the California test center. Precisely what that presence would involve is unclear at the moment. The move won’t be immediate because XCOR is in the process of building the first Lynx space plane at its hangar in Mojave. Flight testing is set to begin at the end of this year or in early 2013.

XCOR’s business model is to have operational bases at spaceports through the U.S. and, if allowed by the U.S. government, around the world. In the near future, we look forward to retaining a West Coast operational presence and establishing an East Coast presence. XCOR's Jeff Greason has been very clear that he wants to place the R&D and production arms of company to avoid R&D engineers from trying to solve production problems.

The overall goal is to tightly control changes to production models and to ensure that the two parts of the company have distinct cultures. Florida is seen as an attractive location because of its skilled workforce and the state’s willingness to financially assist companies looking to locate there. The state also has licensed spaceports at the Kennedy Space Center and at Cecil Field in Jacksonville. (7/6)

DARPA Investments in Extreme Hypersonics Continue (Source: DARPA)
DARPA’s research and development in stealth technology during the 1970s and 1980s led to the world’s most advanced radar-evading aircraft, providing strategic national security advantage to the United States. Today, that strategic advantage is threatened as other nations’ abilities in stealth and counter-stealth improve. Restoring that battle space advantage requires advanced speed, reach and range.

Hypersonic technologies have the potential to provide the dominance once afforded by stealth to support a range of varied future national security missions. Extreme hypersonic flight at Mach 20 (i.e., 20 times the speed of sound)—-which would enable DoD to get anywhere in the world in under an hour-—is an area of research where significant scientific advancements have eluded researchers for decades. Thanks to programs by DARPA, the Army, and the Air Force in recent years, however, more information has been obtained about this challenging subject.

Tackling remaining unknowns for DoD hypersonics efforts is the focus of the new DARPA Integrated Hypersonics (IH) program. The IH program expands hypersonic technology research to include five primary technical areas: thermal protection system and hot structures; aerodynamics; guidance, navigation, and control (GNC); range/instrumentation; and propulsion. (7/7)

Aerospace Company Could Be Headquartered In Midland (Source: KOSA)
An aerospace company could be bringing their operation to the City of Midland. It's a story CBS 7 been working on for months. Multiple sources throughout the City tipped me off of something big coming to midland that would promise economic diversification and sustainability. CBS 7 was informed by the Midland Development Corporation that an announcement of a new industry that may be coming to the area was planned for this coming Monday.

This evening CBS 7 discovered an agenda of a Midland Development Corporation special meeting to be held this Monday that listed the company "XCOR Aerospace" several times and we are learning more about a multi-million dollar deal that could bring a promising industry to west Texas. Earlier today, CBS 7 met with Pam Welch, the Executive Director of The Midland Development Corporation to discuss the organizations efforts to diversify the economy.

"The board has always strived to bring in those companies who diversify the economy, even though the oil and gas industry is our bread and butter and we certainly appreciate everything they've done for the community, we want to bring in companies to diversify when things slow down, we still have jobs," said Pam Welch, Executive Director, The Midland Development Corporation. (7/5)

Midland to Consider Deal with XCOR (Source: My West Texas)
A rocket engine and spaceflight development company could locate its headquarters near Midland International Airport after votes on Monday by the Midland Development Corp. and the Midland City Council. According to agendas posted Thursday, the two entities will vote on an incentive deal with XCOR Aerospace Inc., which currently operates from Mojave, Calif.

The company is being offered an incentive deal of about $10 million to create a corporate headquarters in Midland that eventually would include enough employees to necessitate a $12 million payroll, said Robert Rendall, MDC board secretary, who’s been working on the project. Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer for XCOR, said Midland had been on its radar so when executives received a call from the MDC they were interested in learning more. Between the weather, the open space around Midland International Airport and the business climate, Nelson said Midland is an ideal place for them. (7/6)

Mojave Spaceport Chief Responds to Potential XCOR Move (Source: Parabolic Arc)
I had a chance to talk to Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt earlier this afternoon about XCOR Aerospace’s decision to move some of its operations to Midland, Tex. At the time of the interview, Witt was still trying to find out the full details of the plan, which will involve XCOR keeping at least part of its operations in Mojave on a long-term basis. We talked about the XCOR news and Witt’s efforts to get a limited liability law passed by the state of California.

Q. News came out today that XCOR will be moving its R&D facility out to Midland, Texas. How are you feeling about that right now? WITT: “I’m still receiving input on that. I was told one thing and I’m told now just now a few minutes ago that my initial report was not correct. And so, I’ve had to retract all my statements to the AV Press this morning. Anything I say at this point I’m kind of afraid to because I don’t know what is actually [happening]."

“I’ve read the press reports from yesterday and I’ve had two communications with [XCOR Chief Operating Officer] Andrew [Nelson] today, and he said they still require long term a facility in Mojave. So I’m not sure what all this means. And I have no idea what they intend to do in this facility or that." Click here. Editor's Note: XCOR had been--and may still be--in discussions toward moving major portions of their business to Florida, beyond merely conducting launch operations in the state. (7/6)

Brooklyn Spacesuit Designers Have High Hopes (Source: Brooklyn Paper)
A theatrical costume designer and a former Russian space program employee are aiming for the stars by building low-cost spacesuits that they hope will best NASA’s current design. Ted Southern and Nikolay Moiseev have constructed two prototype spacesuits in their Gowanus studio and they’re currently working on a third that’s ready to go into orbit — but before they can blast off, they need your help.

In search of funding, the duo has cast aside the secrecy of the space race-era by using a more contemporary approach to fund-raising: Kickstarter.com. “Not that many people are making spacesuits — and those who are, are very secretive about it,” said Southern, a Park Slope resident with a background as a costume engineer for Broadway productions like “The Little Mermaid” and “Equus.” “They’re worried about people stealing ideas. Kickstarter is open-sourced, but that’s a risk we’re taking — we wanted to be a part of the community and not hide.” (7/6)

Florida Tech Has Starring Role in Major Physics Find (Source: Florida Today)
When European scientists made a breakthrough discovery using the world’s biggest atom smasher, they used detection equipment designed and built at Florida Tech. One of the facility’s $550 million particle-physics detectors contains eight Florida Tech “Cboxes,” which calibrate equipment that measures the energy of particles produced during subatomic collisions, said Marcus Hohlmann, associate professor.

Since 2001, the Florida Tech HEP team has received more than $2.5 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding to develop this technology and supporting computer systems, among other research work. About 20 graduate and undergraduate students participate each semester. Technically speaking, their experiments involve hadron calorimetry, muon tomography and grid computing, among other confounding topics. (7/6)

Nash Replaces Reed After 17-year Stint as VCSFA Chief (Source: Space News)
Alaska Aerospace Corp.’s Dale Nash will replace Billie Reed as executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) effective July 31. The shakeup ends both Reed’s 17-year tenure as Virginia’s top commercial space official and six months of uncertainty about his role in Virginia’s developing commercial space launch industry.

Reed, who has run the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority since the group was created in July 1995, could not be reached for comment the week of July 2. Rumors of his departure from VCSFA first emerged in January, when the Daily Press, a Hampton Roads, Va., newspaper, reported that Reed would retire. Reed, at the time, called the report “exaggerated.”

Under Reed’s tenure, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) — a commercial launch facility on Wallops Island, Va., — has struggled to complete construction and certification of a launch pad leased to Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. for cargo-delivery missions to the international space station. (7/6)

Italian Military Buys $100M Spy Satellite from Israel in Exchange Deal (Source: Space News)
The Italian Defense Ministry is buying a high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite from Israel as part of an offset package agreed to in exchange for the Israeli Defense Ministry’s purchase of Italian trainer aircraft. The satellite transaction, which officials said is valued at more than $100 million, is the latest example of the fragility of agreements between Italy, France and Germany on a de facto division of expertise, with France taking charge of optical systems and Italy and Germany sticking with radar reconnaissance. (7/6)

NASA Workshop Discusses On-Orbit Robotic Satellite-Servicing (Source: NASA)
Envision a space with more options and increased capacity: a place where aging and ailing satellites could place a service call for a helpful boost to the right orbit, a quick repair, or a fuel top-off to keep them operating longer. According to many of the speakers and attendees at NASA’s Second International Workshop on On-Orbit Satellite Servicing, such long-discussed lifeline services are more than a dream of the future; they are options that could be achievable within the next five years.

On May 30-31, more than 240 international representatives gathered at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to discuss international near-term satellite servicing plans and delve into the issues that could either stimulate or strangle the emerging commercial servicing industry. During the event, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) presented results to date from NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission on the International Space Station. (7/6)

Hypersonices, The New Stealth (Source: DARPA)
DARPA’s research and development in stealth technology during the 1970s and 1980s led to the world’s most advanced radar-evading aircraft, providing strategic national security advantage to the United States. Today, that strategic advantage is threatened as other nations’ abilities in stealth and counter-stealth improve. Restoring that battle space advantage requires advanced speed, reach and range. Hypersonic technologies have the potential to provide the dominance once afforded by stealth to support a range of varied future national security missions.

Extreme hypersonic flight at Mach 20 (i.e., 20 times the speed of sound)—which would enable DoD to get anywhere in the world in under an hour—is an area of research where significant scientific advancements have eluded researchers for decades. Thanks to programs by DARPA, the Army, and the Air Force in recent years, however, more information has been obtained about this challenging subject. (7/6)

Five European Nations To Pool Commercial Bandwidth Buys (Source: Space News)
The European Defence Agency (EDA) on July 6 announced that five of its member nations have agreed to pool their demand for commercial satellite communications bandwidth in hopes of securing better prices. For the Brussels-based EDA, the agreement by Britain, France, Italy, Poland and Romania is a modest first step that nonetheless took several years to accomplish. (7/6)

Astronaut Promotes Unity at TEDxISU (Source: Florida Today)
At TEDxISU, NASA astronaut Ron Garan discussed the need for greater collaboration to tie together fragmented global efforts to better the world and reduce suffering. “There has to be a way for all of us to collaborate toward these vital common goals,” he told an audience of roughly 500 at Florida Tech’s Gleason auditorium.

Garan discussed a nonprofit initiative he helped launch called Unity Node, named for the node that connects others on the International Space Station. It’s an open source platform that aims to share data among organizations to improve their scale and efficiency. “Open Source Space” is the theme of this morning’s TEDx event hosted by the International Space University at Florida Tech. (7/6)

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