August 1, 2012

Space Florida Sponsors Suborbital Market Forecast (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida – the State of Florida’s spaceport authority and aerospace economic development agency – and the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation – partnered in Nov. 2011 to commission a study prepared by The Tauri Group on the forecast 10-year demand for suborbital reusable vehicles. The research and analysis-focused process is considered a conservative first analysis of the suborbital flight segments for personal spaceflight and science missions.

The analysis included interviewing 120 potential users and providers; polling 60 researchers; and assessing budgets, market studies, and other data. A structured survey of more than 200 ultra-high net-worth individuals was also conducted. The results of that study are being made available to the public today via the Space Florida and FAA websites.

“This study reveals great promise for the suborbital spaceflight industry,” noted Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “Florida has made significant investments to jumpstart growth in suborbital spaceflight through direct investments in suborbital companies, spaceport infrastructure, purchase of launch services, and developing the market through a flight incentive program.” (8/1)

NASA to Announce Commercial Crew Competitors (Source: NASA)
NASA on Friday will announce new agreements with industry partners for its Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. At 10 a.m. NASA will host a news briefing from Kennedy Space Center. CCiCap is an initiative of NASA's Commercial Crew Program and a priority of the Obama Administration. The objective is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. After the capability is matured, NASA could purchase commercial services to meet its space station crew transportation needs. (8/1)

If Liberty Wins - Vindication of Constellation? Not Quite (Source: SPACErePORT)
If ATK's Liberty launch system is among the CCiCap winners, the resulting stable of NASA-backed launchers (commercial crew carriers and heavy-lift launchers) could look much like Constellation's Ares-1 and Ares-5 rockets. So would this represent a vindication of the Constellation program? Not quite. If ATK is among the winners, the cost of Liberty compared to Ares-1 will be revealed, and the difference will be illuminating. Whereas Ares-1 was a highly expensive sole-source government-led program, Liberty is designed to compete against other rockets.

So although Liberty's selection might offer an "I told you so" moment for Constellation's advocates, they'd be missing the point. Although Liberty and Ares-1 would be very similar, Liberty would demonstrate the efficiency and wisdom of NASA's new commercial procurement approach. A lot of Floridians are rooting for Liberty, as it would utilize much of the KSC infrastructure that was already bought and paid-for for the Space Shuttle program. (8/1)

Mars Attracts! Mysterious Red Planet Sparks Imagination in All Ages (Source: Florida Today)
It might take a rocket scientist to land a rover on the Red Planet, but it doesn’t take an astrophysicist to explain why people have a soft spot for Mars. Mars is cool. No, not that kind of cool, though it gets nippy on a planet with temperatures that can dip to 200 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Rather, it’s an indefinable but unifying sort of cool that for centuries has inspired literature and legend. Sparked music and movies. Blended fact and fantasy in a way that’s earned Mars a kind of “Pop Culture King of Planets” crown. Let’s get down to Earth: You don’t see Neptune or Uranus getting this kind of play. (7/31)

Intelsat: Initial Epic Customers Have Booked $500 Million in Capacity (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on Aug. 1 said the three inaugural customers for its Epic line of high-throughput mobile communications satellites have booked a combined $500 million in capacity over 10 years. The three customers, Panasonic Avionics, Harris CapRock and MTN Satellite Communications, are the three anchor customers for Epic, whose first two satellites are expected to be in service in 2015 and 2016. All three customers have contracted for Ku-band capacity for their respective core markets, which include commercial airlines, oil and gas exploration platforms and passenger cruise ships. (8/1)

More on Posey Moon Colony Claims (Source: SpaceKSC)
On July 22 in Florida Today, Congressman Bill Posey said: "The moon, first and primarily, is the military high ground. We know the Russians want to colonize the moon. The Chinese are going to colonize the moon — they’ve said so." An opinion letter to Florida Today suggested that Posey has repeatedly made this claim, but never offered any proof. Posey responded: "It is naive to think that Russia and China have no desire to dominate space, or that they lack the capability to reach the moon. A January 2010 report from The Washington Times quotes Chinese officials stating they are developing plans to reach the moon by 2022 and are building three space stations."

I found the Washington Times article that Posey appears to cite as his source. Titled "China Space Program Shoots for Moon", it's not a "report" as Posey claims but an opinion column written by a former State Department analyst. The column says nothing about China wanting a Moon colony, but states that China will launch three space stations into Earth orbit between 2011 and 2015 and that Chinese could visit the moon by 2017.

No authoritative source and no documented plan to build a moon colony; just speculation that China might land on the Moon some day. Landing on the Moon is not a "colony" anymore than the six Apollo landings created an American "colony" on the Moon. A colony is a permanent visit, not a few days picking up rocks. Rep. Posey, in my opinion, remains as I described him on July 23 — a demagogue who makes absurd claims trying to frighten people into keeping him in power. (8/1)

Hot Wheels on Mars: Mattel Offers Curiosity Rover on Toy Store Shelves (Source: CollectSpace)
Soon after NASA's Curiosity rover lands and becomes the hottest set of wheels on Mars, it'll debut as the latest Hot Wheels to land on toy store shelves. Mattel, Inc., makers of the die-cast line of Hot Wheels toy cars, is ready to release the car-size Curiosity as its latest 1:64 scale miniature in September. The Hot Wheels "Mars Rover Curiosity" set is part of Mattel's assortment of 247 toy cars for 2012. (8/1)

Huerta Passes First Hurdle to Become FAA Chief (Source: USA Today)
The Senate Transportation Committee voted Tuesday to support Michael Huerta for a five-year team as Federal Aviation Administration administrator. Huerta is currently serving as acting administrator. However, a spokesman for Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said DeMint plans to "have a full debate" on Huerta's nomination when it goes to the Senate for a vote, which could stall the process. (8/1)

Progress 48 Cargo Spacecraft Set for Expedited Cargo Delivery To Space Station (Source: SpaceRef)
Everything is set at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for Wednesday's launch of the ISS Progress 48 cargo ship to the International Space Station. Loaded with 1,962 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 925 pounds of water and 2,817 pounds of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware, the unpiloted Russian resupply craft is scheduled to lift off from the launch pad at Baikonur at 3:35 p.m. EDT on a novel four-orbit, six-hour expedited transit to the station.

With this launch, Russian officials are testing a modified rendezvous plan designed to reduce the typical two-day flight to the station. If applied to the crewed Soyuz vehicles, this would increase crew comfort and provide for additional contingency time at the end of the spacecraft's mission. If all goes as planned, docking by the Progress to the Pirs docking compartment will occur at 9:24 p.m. Russian flight controllers retain the option to revert to a two-day rendezvous if something unexpected occurs in the first three hours, or two orbits, of the mission. In that case, docking would take place late Friday afternoon. (8/1)

NASA Pays $505 Million To Close Shuttle Pension Shortfall (Source: Space News)
NASA has paid off the $505 million that was needed to cover a pension shortfall at United Space Alliance (USA), which maintained and operated the space shuttle fleet until its retirement last year, the agency confirmed July 31. The payment closes the books on NASA’s biggest unsettled expense from the shuttle era. The agency had to cover the pension shortfall because its contract with Houston-based USA allows the company to charge NASA for all personnel expenses. (8/1)

Iran to Launch Monkey into Space (Source: RIA Novosti)
Iran will orbit a rocket with a live monkey on board later this month, Iranian Space Agency chief Dr. Hamid Fazeli said on Wednesday. The Kavoshgar-5 satellite carrier with a bio-capsule holding a rhesus monkey is to be launched between August 19 and 20, he added. The rocket will be orbited at an altitude of 120 to 130 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. “We have fully packed the cargo which is to be launched into space with a solid-fuel rocket,” he said. (8/1)

Musk: The Goal Is Mars (Source: LA Times)
Question: Would you go to Mars? Musk: "I would. The first flight would be risky; if I felt comfortable that the company's mission will continue, that my kids have grown up, then I'd be on the first mission." Question: Did you choose the South Bay (Los Angeles) for SpaceX because of its aerospace tradition? Musk: "That's exactly the reason. I used to live in Palo Alto, and when I told my friends that I was moving to L.A., they all thought I was crazy. They view Southern California as being a little vacuous and Northern California as being more intellectual. But people in the Bay Area have forgotten that there's been a huge concentration of aerospace engineering talent here, for more than a century." Click here. (8/1)

DigitalGlobe Raises Outlook; On Track to Close GeoEye Deal (Source: Reuters)
DigitalGlobe posted second-quarter results that beat analysts' expectations and the company raised its full-year sales growth forecast. The company, which earlier this month agreed to buy smaller rival GeoEye Inc for $453 million, expects the combined company to post a pro-forma revenue of about $610 million for 2012. DigitalGlobe said it was on track to close the GeoEye acquisition in late 2012 or early 2013. DigitalGlobe reported a second-quarter net income of $9.6 million, compared with a net loss of $0.9 million a year earlier. (7/31)

Scientists Seek Source Of Life's Lopsided Left-Handedness (Source: AmericaSpace)
A recent analysis of a meteorite recovered in Canada sheds new light on a well-known mystery in biology. The meteorite fell to Earth in January 2000. It exploded over British Columbia, Canada and pieces fell across the frozen Tagish Lake. Many people witnessed the meteor fall and collected pieces quickly and kept them frozen to minimize contamination by Earth organisms.

A science team put small samples of the Tagish Lake meteorite into hot water solutions, drawing out any volatile molecules, then fed them into a mass spectrometer, a device that determines the composition of molecules by ionizing them and determining their charge-to-mass ratio. The team was not surprised when organic molecules showed up in the analysis, space rocks have long been known to carry pre-biotic organic molecules, but they were surprised to discover that most of the aspartic acid was of the left-handed variety. Click here. (8/1)

Japan to Work Out New Space Policy by March (Source: Daily Yomiuri)
The government aims to map out a new space policy by the end of March 2013, according to Motohisa Furukawa, state minister in charge of national policy. The new policy will reflect recent developments both at home and abroad, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake, he said following the first meeting of a newly created space policy committee Tuesday. The committee, established under the Cabinet Office, will hold comprehensive discussions on the nation's space policy. Previously, space policy issues were debated by multiple government agencies, such as the science and transport ministries. (8/1)

The Push for More Spaceborne Nuclear Russian Roulette (Source: Huffington Post)
World Nuclear News, the information arm of the World Nuclear Association that seeks to boost the use of atomic energy, last week heralded a NASA Mars rover slated to land on Mars on Monday, the first Mars rover fueled with plutonium. "A new era of space exploration is dawning through the application of nuclear energy for rovers on Mars and the Moon, power generation at future bases on the surfaces of both and soon for rockets that enable interplanetary travel," began a dispatch from World Nuclear News.

In fact, in space as on Earth there are safe, clean alternatives to nuclear power. Indeed, right now a NASA space probe energized by solar energy is on its way to Jupiter, a mission which for years NASA claimed could not be accomplished without nuclear power providing onboard electricity. Solar propulsion of spacecraft has begun. And scientists, including those at NASA, have been working on using solar energy and other safe power sources for human colonies on Mars and the moon. Click here. (8/1)

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