August 14, 2012

XCOR Aerospace Headed for Florida (Source: Florida Today)
XCOR Aerospace next week will announce plans to build rocket engines and potentially a suborbital spacecraft in Florida, likely at Kennedy Space Center. The California company expects to create 152 jobs with this operations and manufacturing business, which it will announce at 10 a.m. on Aug. 23 at the Astronaut Encounter Theater at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. An invitation to the announcement says XCOR will establish its new business in Florida, and the only Florida site the company has seriously scouted was KSC.

Reached earlier today, an XCOR spokesman declined to comment beyond the invitation. The company has been racking up cash and incentives in Florida over the past few years. Space Florida, the state’s space economic development group, has committed to investing up to $3 million in XCOR. And in late July, Brevard County commissioners approved $182,400 in incentives to help the company open a facility at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility. According to the company, the project would include hangar and flight operations, vehicle manufacturing, engine assembly and space tourism elements. (8/14)

Privatization In Space (Source: Kuwait Times)
Space exploration took the next step toward the modernization of travel, getting closer to a world where spacecrafts take man into space for vacations. Some mega corporations are heading to space to expand their types of services, including discovering new energy sources as well as minerals. Their hope is that through their commercial activities they can help mankind and earth by exploring space and invest in areas that might be privatized by governments.

Although in space there is still an ongoing type of cold war, space is now being used by the travel industry as a new destination. By using private rockets, which are an advancement in space transportation technology, private companies look to begin a new era in travel. Also, companies are trying to minimize the cost of escaping gravity by expanding their range of services to include chemical, biological and physical experiments in space labs. Additionally, they have considered returning damaged satellites to earth from space for service in specialized space garages. (8/14)

To Nuke or Not to Nuke the Moon, That is the Multi-Billion Dollar Question (Source: Dennis Wingo)
Energy is the lifeblood of civilization. This is true on Earth as well as for of our outward move into the solar system. Wherever we go, our actions and our level of success will be dictated by how much energy we have and are able to productively use. You cannot have an industrial civilization without plentiful energy. This is true whether this civilization is on the Earth, Moon, or beyond. With plentiful energy, the stars are at our doorstep.

In the past 20 years of my looking at, reviewing, and analyzing lunar and beyond exploration architectures, my own interests have shied away from nuclear power as part of any architecture as it immediately drives up the price to unaffordable levels and puts a major critical path milestone in the way of success. Solar power is great for low power outposts and can be implemented without a lot of development time and expense. However, there have been a lot of developments in small nuclear power systems that warrant examination. Click here. (8/14)

Schafer Corp. Appoints Michael Griffin Chairman and CEO (Source: SpaceRef)
Schafer Corporation, a leading provider of scientific, engineering, and technical services and products applied to defeating national security threats, announced that Michael D. Griffin will assume the role of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Griffin is the former Administrator of NASA, serving in that position from 2005 to 2009. In addition to spending ten years at NASA in various capacities, he has also served in a variety of senior government, commercial, and academic roles. (8/14)

Imagine Flying from New York to London in Under an Hour (Source: CNN)
Perhaps Han Solo said it best in Star Wars when, describing his hyper-fast smuggling spaceship the Millennium Falcon, he said, "It may not look like much, but it's got it where it counts." While the Air Force might take exception to being likened to the Falcon, in reality the platypus-nosed X-51A Waverider hypersonic flight test vehicle really doesn't look like much. But it definitely has it where it counts.

On Tuesday, the unmanned 25-foot-long vehicle will be dropped off of the wing of a converted B-52 bomber off the California coast and try to fly for 300 seconds at science fiction-like speeds of Mach 6, over 4,500 mph - fast enough to fly from New York to London in less than an hour. It is the Pentagon's latest test as it studies the possibilities of hypersonic flight, defined as moving at speeds of Mach 5 (about 3,400 mph) and above without leaving the atmosphere.

The technology could eventually bring missiles or airplanes to the other side of the planet in minutes instead of hours. The Air Force and the Pentagon are not saying much about Tuesday's test, but the military could use such technology for reconnaissance aircraft, cruise missile-like weapons or vehicles that could carry people or cargo so fast adversaries would not have time to react, according to military analysts. (8/14)

What the Paul Ryan Pick Means for Space (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County leaders say they’re waiting for Mitt Romney to announce a plan for space. Hedid that Saturday when he named Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan and his famous blueprint for balancing the federal budget are the space plan. Romney endorsed Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” plan’s numbers and strategy early on. U.S. Reps. Bill Posey and Sandy Adams voted in 2011 and 2012 to adopt them as the federal budget. The Ryan plan would cap spending on science, space and technology at today’s levels (about $30 billion) for a decade.

That’s generous compared to cuts of up to $100 billion per year to other “nonsecurity” spending, the document shows. NASA would chug along with development of its massive moon rocket, updates at Kennedy Space Center, a new space telescope, privatized flights to orbit and robotic missions to Mars. Then, something — probably the rocket — will blow its budget and fall behind schedule, forcing the space agency to cancel something else. My guess: NASA’s climate research.

Posey and Adams already have tried to kill it to steer more money to human spaceflight. The Ryan plan embraces the conservative principle that the federal government should do fewer things, quit entire programs. For example, the Ryan plan contains no mention of government “investment” in technology to encourage growth — unlike President Barack Obama’s budgets, rejected twice by the House. It focuses instead on cutting tax rates to encourage private-sector investment in technology and scientific breakthroughs... The Ryan plan would grow military spending by up to $100 billion per year over the next 10 years. (8/14)

Sea Launch Begins Countdown for Intelsat 21 Launch (Source: Sea Launch)
The Sea Launch and Energia Logistics teams have initiated the automated L-72 hour launch countdown sequence at its equatorial launch site on Aug. 14. Launch operations are now underway at the Equator. The Sea Launch Commander ship is positioned alongside the Odyssey launch platform. A day before liftoff, the Zenit 3SL rocket will be erected on the launch pad for final tests of the launch system and spacecraft, prior to start of the terminal countdown and launch on Aug. 17. (8/14)

European Rocket to Launch Indian Satellite on Sept 22 (Source: The Hindu)
India’s latest communication satellite GSAT-10 is slated to be launched from Kourou in French Guiana on September 22. The satellite will be launched by European space consortium Arianespace’s Ariane-5 rocket. “The upcoming Ariane-5 flight with GSAT-10 and the Astra 2F satellite as its co-passenger is set for September 21 (early hours of Sept 22 in India) from Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch complex. This will be Arianespace’s fifth mission from French Guiana in 2012 with the heavy-lift workhorse,” an Arianespace statement said. (8/14)

Obama Pledges to Protect Science, Tech Funding After NASA Mars Success (Source: PC World)
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged on Monday to keep science and technology funding strong following the success of NASA's Curiosity rover landing on Mars. Obama made the commitment in a phone call to the Curiosity team at JPL. "This is the kind of thing that inspires kids across the country," President Obama said. "They're telling their moms and dads that they want to be part of a Mars mission. Maybe even the first person to walk on Mars. And that kind of inspiration is the by-product of the sort of work you have done."

"It's inspiring to all of us. I'm going to give you guys a personal commitment to protect these critical investments in science and technology," the President said. NASA has been hit with budget cuts over the last few years. Shortly following Curiosity's landing last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden emphasized that the Curiosity mission had been achieved for roughly $7 per U.S. citizen, a total price of $2.5 billion. (8/14)

Global Space Race: Is the Final Frontier the Financial Frontier? (Source: WBEZ)
With all the hoopla over last week’s successful touchdown of NASA’s rover Curiosity on the gravelly surface of Mars, you might forget that the U.S. space agency has experienced big cuts to its budget in recent times. The success of the Mars mission might also make you wonder whether accusations that the United States has lost its mojo on the space front are unwarranted and unfounded.

But there’s a much bigger story at play here, and it’s increasingly a lot less about us here in the United States. Nations across the globe, and commercial bodies, have increasingly become bigger players in the proverbial and literal space race. When once there were but two main bodies – the United States and the former Soviet Union – dominating our upper atmosphere (and beyond), there are now numerous nations making their ways up to the starry sky.

But why are so many countries hoping to get up in space? Rocket launches and space exploration are still incredibly expensive, and it is nearly impossible without the financial backing of a nation. Even Europe, a continent of many wealthy nations, decided to come together for its joint space program, the European Space Agency (ESA). So what’s driving the nations of this world to get into space? Click here. (8/14)

Giant Plasma Loop on Sun is Half a Million Miles Long (Source:
A NASA spacecraft has beamed home a spectacular new view of the sun, a photo that captures a vast tendril of solar plasma reaching across the surface of our nearest star. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the huge solar filament between Aug. 6 and 8, which rises up above the sun's surface in an arc that stretches across more than 500,000 miles (804,672 kilometers). "Filaments are cooler clouds of solar material that are tethered above the sun's surface by unstable magnetic forces," according to NASA. (8/14)

Commercial Crew Winners Look Beyond Station Ops (Source: Aviation Week)
The three teams chosen to proceed in NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program all have ambitions for their crew vehicles that go beyond the agency’s basic requirement of getting astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing’s partially reusable CST-100 capsule, which launches on an Atlas V, was envisioned from the outset as a possible transportation vehicle for the inflatable commercial space station concepts being developed by Bigelow Aerospace. Boeing also has an agreement in place with Space Adventures, which arranged the first-ever space tourism flights in partnership with Russia.

SpaceX hopes its Dragon spacecraft could become “a generalized science delivery platform to almost anywhere in the Solar System,” according to company CEO Elon Musk. SpaceX has been in discussions with NASA about this concept, Musk says. Although the current Dragon capsule is designed to splash down in the water, test flights of a retro-rocket system to allow hard landings will occur “relatively soon,” Musk says.

Sierra Nevada sees three alternative markets for its Dream Chaser spaceplane, which would launch on an Atlas V and return to Earth for a runway landing. One potential market is servicing other spacecraft in LEO. Another would be long-duration, autonomous orbital stays of months or years that would allow for the testing and return of delicate scientific experiments or hardware. The third market would be orbital tourism. (8/14)

Contact Established with Wayward Russian Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
Contact had been established with one of two off-course telecom satellites but it would not be possible to direct it to the designated orbit, its manufacturer said. Telemetric data showed all Telkom 3's service systems were functioning normally, Russia's Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems said. The link established did not allow enough control of the satellite to put it back on track, the company confirmed. "However, the satellite is oriented toward the Sun and has an energy supply. The satellite's solar panels are unfolded," the company said. (8/14)

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