August 23, 2012

Colorado Candidates Voice Support for Spaceport (Source: WestSider)
The five candidates vying for two Adams County Board of County Commissioner seats may have differing opinions on issues, but most agree space flight is the wave of the future. During the Front Range Airport’s annual Classic Aircraft and Car Show on Aug. 18, four of the five candidates voiced their support for the spaceport initiative during an hour-long discussion on Spaceport Colorado’s future. Click here. (8/23)

Space: Mining's Next Frontier? (Source: BBC)
Private companies are becoming increasingly involved in outer space; in the last couple of months there has been the first commercial rocket deliver supplies to the International Space Station and even the announcement of plans to dig mines on asteroids. But what right do they have to lay claim to these resources? As it stands, an international treaty dating from the Cold War says "celestial bodies" belong to all mankind. And as Ray Furlong reports, there are now growing calls to resolve the question of property rights in the stars. Click here. (8/23)

AsiaSat Held Steady for First Half of 2012 (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat on Aug. 23 reported flat revenue for the first six months of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago after removing an unusual one-time revenue gain and said it was evaluating how to use its new AsiaSat 7 satellite for the two-year period before it replaces the aging AsiaSat 3S in 2014. The company reported an increase in profit attributed to its disposal in December of a money-losing joint venture it owned with satellite-television broadcaster Dish Network of the United States. (8/23)

Feinstein Visits NASA Lab That Landed Mars Rover (Source: Sacramento Bee)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday toured the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that successfully landed a car-size rover on Mars and pledged to restore some of the cuts made to the space agency's budget. "We are at a critical time," the Democratic senator said during the stop where she addressed about 400 employees. "I can't say that JPL isn't going to feel the belt-tightening that's going on."

Many of the employees worked on Curiosity, the six-wheel rover that touched down in an ancient crater on Aug. 5 to begin the most in-depth examination of the Martian environment. At a budget-busting $2.5 billion, it likely is the last flagship Mars mission for a while. (8/23)

NASA Announces Completion of First New Commercial Crew Milestone (Source: Flight Global)
NASA has announced the on-time completion of the first milestone under NASA's commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) program, meant to stimulate the development of crew-capable transport to low Earth orbit (LEO). Sierra Nevada has completed the program implementation plan review, and is set to receive $30 million under the terms of the space act agreement with NASA. Sierra Nevada could receive as much as $213 million for work on its Dream Chaser winged lifting body, currently undergoing preparations for drop tests.

Fellow awardee Boeing is nearing completion of its first milestone, an integrated systems review worth $50 million. The company is developing the CST-100, a more traditional capsule-style vehicle. Boeing could receive up to $460 million through CCiCap. The third CCiCap awardee, SpaceX, is scheduled to complete a CCiCap kick-off meeting, worth $40 million, and a financial and business review for $20 million. (8/23)

Manx Made Optics Proving a Success on Mars (Source: Isle of
The head of an Onchan-based company, which provided vital equipment for NASA’s latest mission to Mars, says he’s delighted tests have already proven the skill of engineers at the firm. CVI Melles Griot built specialist optics for the Curiosity Rover which landed on Mars safely earlier this month. And the equipment has already been in action after the rover used a laser to analyse a rock on the Martian surface as part of a test. (8/23)

Innovation From Outer Space! Exploring NASA's Mars Effect (Source: Fast Company)
Curiosity's technological development included world-class power, software engineering, telecommunications, and aerospace technology. Innovations that researchers have worked on for years can also be leveraged for more earthbound use. Just think of it as the Mars Effect. Click here. (8/23)

NASA Chief: We Explore Because That's What Humans Do (Source: Florida Today)
While NASA remains as busy as ever, the retirement of the space shuttle fleet created a perception that the U.S. had lost its focus. In reality, the agency has embarked on a course that features three top priorities: Development and 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope; Operation of the International Space Station through at least 2020 (along with commercial space taxis and freighters to ferry crew and cargo to and from the outpost); and Development of a new heavy-lift rocket and the new Orion spacecraft to send astronauts deeper into space, to an asteroid by 2025 and the vicinity of Mars by the mid-2030s. Click here. (8/23)

Rocket Launch at Wallops Island Delayed Until Friday (Source: Delaware Online)
The launch of a suborbital sounding rocket carrying four experiments developed by university students that was to launch from NASA Wallops Flight Facility this morning has been delayed until Friday morning. The launch was put off due to boats in the hazard area, officials said. The launch is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. (8/23)

Milky Way System’s Twins Found (Source:
An international group of astronomers has announced the discovery of two groups of galaxies that are just like ours. The Milky Way Galaxy is a fairly typical galaxy, but when paired with its close neighbors – the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds – it is very rare. “We’ve never found another galaxy system like the Milky Way before, which is not surprising considering how hard they are to spot! It’s only recently become possible to do the type of analysis that lets us find similar groups,” said Dr Aaron Robotham.

“Everything had to come together at once: we needed telescopes good enough to detect not just galaxies but their faint companions, we needed to look at large sections of the sky, and most of all we needed to make sure no galaxies were missed in the survey,” he added. Sophisticated simulations of how galaxies form don’t produce many examples similar to the Milky Way and its surrounds, predicting them to be quite a rare occurrence. Astronomers haven’t been able to tell just how rare until now, with the discovery of not just one but two exact matches amongst the hundreds of thousands of galaxies surveyed. (8/23)

Russia Completes First Stage for South Korean Rocket (Source: Itar-Tass)
The first stage of the South Korean rocket KSLV-I (Naro-1), which was produced by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center was sent to South Korea by rail. “The loading of the first stage on the train platform, which was dispatched to Ulyanovsk was carried out overnight at the Space Rocket Plant in Moscow.”

From Ulyanovsk a plane of the Polyot airline will deliver the product to the South Korean port of Busan, and further by sea the rocket will be transported to the Naro space center. Within the framework of the bilateral intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, Russia and South Korea have agreed to jointly design and create the South Korean space rocket complex with the light class carrier rocket KSLV-I.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the Khrunichev Center (responsible for the development of the complex as a whole) NPO Energomash (the developer and manufacturer of the first stage engine) and the Design Bureau of Transport Machinery (responsible for the development of ground complex project). Within the framework of the project Russian specialists have designed a ground complex for the first South Korean spaceport Naro and participated in its construction. The first two launches of the South Korean rocket KSLV-1 in 2009 and 2010 ended in failure. However, according to official data, the Russian stage worked normally. (8/23)

KSC Welcomes Job-Bringing XCOR Aerospace to Brevard (Source: Florida Today)
Former astronaut Rick Searfoss, who now works for XCOR Aerospace, said he is confident the suborbital spacecraft designed by the company is capable of making the flight to an altitude of 60 miles and gliding back to Earth. "It's so exciting for to me to think that I will have the opportunity to go to space from Florida again," said former shuttle commander Searfoss, who is director of flight test operations for XCOR.

Describing today's announcement as a "turning point" for Brevard's space industry, Brevard officials welcomed XCOR to the Space Coast, where thousands of engineers and techicians lost their jobs when the shuttle program ended last year. "The key factor to make the Space Coast stand out was the work force," said XCOR founder Jeff Greason at an event at Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Complex this morning.

Sen. Bill Nelson said XCOR's arrival in Brevard will help grow a diversified space industry in Brevard to replace the massive shuttle program. The 14-year-old company will bring about 150 direct jobs and dozens of support jobs, said XCOR representative Jim Muncy. “You’re going to have a whole new cottage industry of things going on,” Muncy said. The Lynx will be manufactured in significant numbers. “We’re going to sell them around the world,” Muncy added. (8/23)

NASA Clears SpaceX to Begin Cargo Deliveries to ISS (Source: Florida Today)
NASA has officially cleared SpaceX to begin cargo deliveries to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion contract, Administrator Charles Bolden announced today at the company's Cape Canaveral launch complex. The milestone officially marks SpaceX's graduation from the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services development program the company began in 2006.

The successful demonstration flight in May proved SpaceX was ready for operational missions, the first of which is expected to launch from the Cape in October. Bolden spoke today in front of the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule slated to fly the next mission under the Commercial Resupply Services contract. (8/23)

Defense Cuts Put California, Virginia and Texas at High Risk (Source: Defense News)
A new report shows that sequestration cuts to defense spending will put some states at higher risk than others. Virginia, Texas and California have the most to lose under the automatic spending cuts, the nonprofit Center for Security Policy found. Small businesses and minority-owned companies in particular have much at stake with the cuts, the reports say. (8/22)

Illinois Could Lose 54,000 Jobs Due to Defense Cuts (Source: Rockford Register)
Defense cuts could cost Illinois about 54,000 jobs in defense and nonmilitary industries, the Aerospace Industries Association says. That tally would make Illinois one of the 20 most-affected states under sequestration budget cuts, the AIA report says. (8/21)

FAA Misses Drone Deadline (Source: AvWeb)
The pressure is on for the FAA to allow drone operations in the National Airspace, and this week a major unmanned systems advocate complained that the agency is already behind schedule. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International wrote to the FAA that legislation passed earlier this year set a deadline of Aug. 12 for the FAA to designate six test ranges where certification standards and air traffic requirements could be developed, but the deadline has passed and the FAA doesn't have a program in place.

"This is a critical step in the process toward the safe and responsible integration of UAS into the national airspace by 2015," wrote AUVSI President Michael Toscano. He said demand to use the vehicles is strong in both the public and commercial sector for uses such as police surveillance and crop monitoring, and delaying the use of drones will cost the economy more than $100 million in lost wages each year.

In May, the FAA said it was making progress in its site selection process and expects to name the sites in December. "These sites are important because they will provide valuable data to us safely integrate UAS into the nation's airspace by 2015 as required by the 2012 FAA reauthorization," the FAA said. (8/22)

Still More Robot Company for Mars (Source: TIME)
NASA is not without its cynics. The agency that was founded on the dreamy, even childlike, premise that America could and should explore the cosmos — because, well, why not? — is a department of government all the same. And that means it’s spent more than half a century fighting the annual budget battles in Washington, trying to wring terrestrial dollars out of hometown lawmakers for missions that will take place everywhere but Earth.

That hasn’t always been easy, and in 1992, then-Administrator Daniel Goldin decided to use the agency’s strained financial condition as a way to inspire his troops. “Better, Faster, Cheaper,” would be NASA’s new marching orders, he announced — posing his engineers a challenge to do ever more with ever less. The grumbling from within the ranks suggested that not everybody was buying it. “Better, faster, cheaper — pick any two,” was the subversive response.

But the agency persisted, most prominently with its now 20-year-old Discovery program — a series of unmanned missions to points throughout the solar system that would be built from off-the-shelf parts, cost-capped in the vicinity of $500 million, and go from blueprint to space with just a year or two between missions. And like it or not naysayers, a generation later, the program has worked spectacularly. Click here. (8/23)

Nobel Prize Winner Predicts a "Dark" Universe Ahead (Source: Xinhua)
Astronomers should feel lucky they have a space full of stars, galaxies and other objects to study after Nobel Prize laureate Brian P. Schmidt suggested that the universe would eventually fade away. "Human beings will look to an empty universe in 100 billion years, as all the galaxies will fade away except the Milky Way we live in," said Schmidt.

Schmidt shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Before their discoveries, it was commonly thought that the expansion of the universe was slowing down. (8/23)

Scientist Pins Hope on New Evidence for Universe's Origin (Source: Xinhua)
Charles Bennett, winner of the 2012 Gruber Cosmology Prize, has devoted himself to the detection of new evidence for inflation, the theorized rapid expansion of the universe that occurred in the very first moments after its birth. "We don't know how to detect gravitational waves very well, but we can detect their impact - polarization," the astrophysicist from Johns Hopkins University said.

The inflation theory postulates that the universe expanded far faster than the speed of light and grew exponentially almost instantaneously after the Big Bang, or the moment when the universe sprang into existence 13.7 billion years ago. Scientists believe that inflation, if it actually occurred, could have created gravitational waves, which are ripples in the curvature of space-time. (8/23)

Epic Struggle Between Birds And Pigs Goes On With A Martian Twist (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA is helping pigs and birds explore the Martian terrain and shed light on the agency's missions to the Red Planet in the latest update to the game Angry Birds Space. Rovio Entertainment, creator of Angry Birds, announced the update Thursday, complete with a cast of agency rovers and landers.

Earlier this year, millions of gamers were introduced to concepts of microgravity in Angry Birds Space, which was supported through a partnership with NASA and includes links to a variety of education information. "Rovio is teaching huge new audiences about NASA's missions to Mars thanks to this collaboration," said David Weaver, associate administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It's a great way to introduce both kids and adults to the wonders of the planet in a fun and entertaining way." (8/23)

Another Mars Mission: Has NASA Made the Wrong Choice? (Source: Guardian)
Just a few weeks ago I was worrying about the future of Mars exploration. Now I'm thinking, 'Mars – again?' On Monday we learned that NASA would fund the InSight mission, which will investigate the interior of the red planet using seismometers and other instruments. The agency chose InSight over a voyage on the methane seas of Saturn's moon Titan; or a hop, skip and jump across the surface of a comet. The decision drew criticism that the agency is becoming fixated on Mars.

Carolyn Porco, who works on NASA's aging Saturn mission Cassini, stated that there is "too much emphasis on Mars in our current plans for planetary exploration". It is not that InSight will return bad science, and I'm thrilled for the teams building its instruments, but it will launch in 2016, three years after the Mars MAVEN mission and just a few years before another promised Mars mission that NASA is expected to announce soon. (8/23)

More on XCOR's Plans (Source: SPACErePORT)
XCOR will continue developing their Mark-I vehicle in Mojave over the next 12-18 months and will transition that activity to Midland, Texas, after a spaceport license is granted to that site by the FAA. The Mark-I vehicle will fly in Mojave and at Midland, with Mojave remaining an "operation site" to serve U.S. West Coast and Pacific Rim markets (including flights over the Grand Canyon.

Florida (NASA KSC) will serve as XCOR's East Coast operational site, taking advantage of the state's robust tourism market, including KSC visitors. While Texas serves as the XCOR R&D headquarters, Florida will ultimately become the manufacturing site for the company's Mark-II vehicle, and presumably the Mark-III that would include a deployable upper stage for small satellite launches. The decision to proceed with Mark-II production in Florida will depend on customer orders. The company has a robust sales operation and expects to secure orders soon.

XCOR officials remained in Florida after the big announcement for meetings with local officials, including universities like Florida Tech and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Embry-Riddle officials met with XCOR to discuss potential collaborative research projects, opportunities for student internships, and other ways the university can support the company's long-range plans. (8/23)

Rising Transponder Prices Mask Regional Disparity (Source: Space News)
The average price of leasing a telecommunications satellite transponder increased just about everywhere in 2011 except in North America and the Middle East and North Africa, according to a market assessment released Aug. 23. The report by Euroconsult of Paris said the average transponder price of $1.62 million per year for 36 megahertz of capacity hides a wide regional price disparity. The report says there is a “risk of price erosion” in the coming years as some markets soften with new satellites entering service. (8/23)

XCOR Maps Out Florida Expansion (Source: Space Florida)
XCOR Aerospace announced its intent to establish an East Coast U.S. operational base in Florida and--as market demand dictates--establish a manufacturing and assembly center for XCOR Lynx Mark II suborbital reusable launch vehicles as well. XCOR plans to bring a Lynx suborbital vehicle to Florida to fly from KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility, the Cecil Field Spaceport, or other suitable Florida locations in the next two years. Should the full business plan of XCOR be realized, they will also commence assembly and factory test of Lynx production models - designed Lynx Mark II - on Florida’s Space Coast, starting with Tail #3.

Direct job creation through late 2018 is estimated at just over 150. “The suborbital marketplace has significant potential and will serve as a key contributor to Florida’s growth in the coming years,” noted Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “We are pleased to be working with XCOR on their operations and manufacturing capabilities here and look forward to watching their Florida-based operations grow.” (8/23)

NROL-36 Atlas Launch in California is Being Rescheduled (Source: SpaceRef)
The launch of an Atlas V carrying the National Reconnaissance Office NROL-36 payload is being rescheduled. The NROL-36 mission leadership has established a new launch date of Sept. 13 and a request for this new launch date on the range has been submitted to the 30th Space Wing. The previously planned launch date of Sept. 6 was not available on the range and mission managers have elected to revise the launch date to Sept. 13 as preferred for overall operational considerations.

The team working to implement the corrective actions for the range issue with the Mission Flight Control Center (MFCC) is currently finalizing the implementation, test and certification of the MFCC corrective actions. There are no issues being worked with either the Atlas V vehicle or the NROL-36 space vehicle and they remain secured in the Mobile Service Tower at Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (8/22)

Space Missions Trigger Map Wars (Source: Nature)
When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft departs from Vesta on 26 August, it will have mapped the second-most-massive object in the Solar System’s asteroid belt in unprecedented detail, revealing a diverse, planet-like body with sheer cliffs and deep craters. But don’t ask for the latitude and longitude of those features. The mission team is embroiled in a dispute with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Paris over which coordinate system to use, and where to place the prime meridian from which longitude will be measured.

At the moment, the groups each have their own meridians, separated by 155°: nearly half a world. “It’s an untenable situation to have an outside group that has no ownership, no belonging to the project, impose arbitrary things,” says Chris Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator and a planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. (8/22)

South Africa to Launch Mini Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
A mini satellite weighing 1.2 kilograms will be launched from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in November to collect information about space weather. Funded by the Department of Science and Technology, the satellite -- ZACUBE-1-- will be South Africa's first nano- satellite running on the same amount of power used by a 5-watt light bulb, according to researchers at the CPUT. Comparing ZACUBE-1 to Sputnik, the first satellite in the world to be launched into space in 1957, lead researcher Robert van Zyl described the nano-satellite as an evolutionary leap in space technology. (8/22)

Smallsats Gaining Capability For Government Jobs (Source: Aviation Week)
Tight budgets and small satellites are turning out to be an attractive mix, driving industrial and academic efforts to make tiny spacecraft more attractive to customers with deeper pockets than the penurious graduate students and innovative professors who pioneered the move down the size and mass scales. Entrepreneurs and established companies are starting to address the limitations posed by the cubesat standard to drive more capability into the 10 X 10 X 10-cm (3.9 X 3.9 X 3.9-in.) boxes originally developed as teaching tools for engineering students.

And cubesats are growing beyond the three-unit, or U, limit imposed by the Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) dispenser they typically ride to orbit. “The idea of 6U gives you a little more room, a little more payload space, and a little bit more room for avionics and things like that,” says James P. Marshall, director of business development at the Space Dynamics Laboratory here, which has developed operational cubesats and other small spacecraft and boasts what may be the only cubesat qualification lab in the world. (8/22)

Grassroots Fund NASA Movement Inspires Crowdfunding Website (Source:
Amid budget cuts and program terminations, NASA's future is in serious question and certainly the agency programs are in questionable financial disarray. Yet the current Mars Rover project is undoubtedly a success with its adoring public, who are holding up their thumbs crying, "Live. Live. Live.", toward their government concerning the space program which currently has an uncertain future.

And from deep within this crowd has arisen the optimistic promise of "Fund NASA" from thousands who have said that, given the opportunity, they would contribute to the future of this doomed space agency. This has prompted Conzortia Business Funding, Inc. to launch a crowdfunding portal dedicated to the survival of the NASA Space Program, where die-hard space program fans can kickstart life back into the space program by kicking in a few good old American greenbacks.

"It's Americans doing what we do best", says Robert Dobyns, Founder & CEO of Conzortia, "Taking the initiative. Rolling up our sleeves. Pitching in when the going gets tough. Making a difference in our nation and the world around us. And with, a difference in our galaxy!". Click here. (8/22)

Isle of Man Rises to Fourth Favorite in Manned Race Back to the Moon (Source: Flight Global)
Two years ago, the space team at the Ascend consultancy (now part of Flightglobal) did an analysis on which nation was likely to be the first to return men to the moon. In the analysis notional odds were assigned to each which country as a measure of our estimation of which was the most likely to win this "race back to the moon." The analysis was originally done during the slow news summer period and published in the month of August 2010 as an interesting fill-in analysis piece.

Despite this, Ascend's space team performed the analysis seriously and we stand by the surprising conclusion that the Isle of Man was the fifth most likely "nation" to be first back to the moon. Here we revisit this analysis and examine each nation's progress in this "race" and there are signs that the Isle of Man has improved its chances of getting its astronauts and flag on the moon, or rather that others have fallen away. Click here. (8/22)

The Universe Isn't a Fractal, Study Finds (Source:
Stars crowd together into galaxies, galaxies assemble into clusters, and clusters amass to form superclusters. Astronomers, probing ever-larger volumes of the cosmos, have been surprised again and again to find matter clustering on ever-larger scales. This distribution of matter has led them to wonder whether the universe is a fractal: a mathematical object that looks the same at any scale, whether you zoom in or out. If the fractal pattern continues no matter how far you zoom out, this would have profound implications for scientists' understanding of the universe.

But now, a new astronomy survey refutes the notion. The universe is fractal-like out to many distance scales, but at a certain point, the mathematical form breaks down. There are no more Russian nesting dolls — i.e., clumps of matter containing smaller clumps of matter — larger than 350 million light-years across. (8/22)

When Exploring Other Planets, International Cooperation Is Key (Source:
Though 2012 has been a rough year for international cooperation in planetary exploration, space agencies around the globe should remain committed to working together, a prominent researcher says. In February, budget cuts forced NASA to bow out of the European-led ExoMars mission, which aims to launch an orbiter and a rover to the Red Planet in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

But that bad experience shouldn't sour the European Space Agency or its international counterparts on collaborating, says David Southwood, who was director of science and robotic exploration at ESA from 2001 to 2011. "In the end, the economic advantages of international cooperation manifestly out­weigh the increased risks," Southwood writes. To give such collaborations the best chance of succeeding, scientists and administrators should take lessons from what happened with ExoMars and other failed partnerships, he adds. (8/22)

Europe’s ATV-3 Space Freighter Raises Space Station Orbit to 420 km (Source: RIA Novosti)
Europe’s ATV-3 unmanned resupply spacecraft raised the International Space Station (ISS) orbit to about 420 kilometers. ATV-3 engines were fired up for two maneuvers to raise the ISS orbit to 420.6 km. The maneuver was carried out to ensure the best conditions for the landing of Russia’s Soyuz TMA-04M manned spacecraft on September 17 and the docking of the Soyuz TMA-06M manned spacecraft with the ISS on October 15.

During the ISS orbital adjustment on August 15 the ATV-3's engines shut down prematurely because of an increase in temperature on one of the freighter's engines that was not involved in the maneuver. As a result, the ATV lifted the ISS orbit only by five kilometers instead of the planned 7.7 km. (8/22)

No comments: