August 27, 2012

NASA to Broadcast 1st Song from Mars Tuesday (Source:
A song called "Reach for the Stars" will make its debut, appropriately, from space. NASA plans to broadcast the tune, written by rapper and songwriter, from its Curiosity rover, newly landed on the surface of Mars. Though Curiosity has no speakers, it will transmit the song via radio waves back to Earth to be received at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT) Tuesday, Aug. 28 during an educational event at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. (8/27)

China Eyes Next Lunar Landing as US Scales Back (Source: AFP)
Neil Armstrong's 1969 lunar landing marked a pinnacle of US technological achievement, defining what many saw as the American century, but the next person to set foot on the moon will likely be Chinese. As the U.S. has scaled back its manned space program to cut costs -- a move strongly criticized by Armstrong -- Asian nations have aggressively expanded into space exploration. (8/27)

Mojave Spaceport Board Authorizes Expenditures for Pool Building Upgrades (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The East Kern Airport District Board of Directors has authorized Mojave Air and Space Port officials to spend up to $600,000 on improvements to Building 137, otherwise known as the pool building. The funds will pay for interior wood refurbishing, a fire suppression system, heating and air conditioning, two restrooms, insulation, electrical work, and permits. This work is estimated to cost $460,000, with a management reserve of $140,000.

The spaceport is renovating the structure to be used for large events and gatherings. Currently, the desert facility lacks any large, enclosed buildings in which to hold such activities. Plans call for the facility to be used by the airport and its tenants. Building 137 gets its nickname from a pool it once contained that the Marines used to conduct water survival training for pilots. The pool has been filled in and paved over, and the building is currently being rented out for dry storage. (8/27)

Addressing Fears About Astronomical Causes for End of World in 2012 (Source: SpaceRef)
As students return to school this fall and the media and web hype about Doomsday 2012 reaches a final, fevered pitch, all of us in science education will need to be prepared to respond to concerns from those who are genuinely worried or confused. Two new resources are now available for educators, parents, youth group leaders, and science communicators to address fears that world-wide disaster is coming on Dec. 21, 2012. Click here. (8/27)

KSC Looks Forward to Providing Facilities for XCOR (Source:
It is not known which specific facilities XCOR will use, although NASA continues to repeat that negotiations are taking place with other commercial users for Orbiter Processing Facility Bays 1 and 2, as well as with potential commercial users of the Launch Complex 39 launch pads. KSC’s “wish list” is for all three OPFs to house new vehicles, namely CST-100, as already agreed for OPF-3, Dream Chaser in OPF-2 and the US Air Force’s X-37B in OPF-1.

However, Sierra Nevada Corp. has stated an OPF would only be of interest if it was a clean-floor processing facility. KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) is likely to be one of the more obvious preferences for XCOR, providing a launch and landing base for their Florida operations. “The region continues to be a key strategic location for companies, like XCOR, who want to build on our nation’s great legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship,” added NASA Chief of Staff David Radzanowski. (8/27)

Innovation Showcase Offers Cash Prize From Space Florida (Source: TRDA)
Join Space Florida and the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) for the Igniting Innovation Capital Acceleration Program Showcase in Orlando, FL on Friday, September 21, 2012. This full-day of business presentations and exhibitions will feature aerospace, aviation, biotech, clean tech, defense, homeland security, life science, information technology and telecommunications companies from across the state.

Chosen from TRDA's Igniting Innovation Capital Acceleration Program and the Clean Tech Venture Initiative, these companies represent of the most innovative and promising entrepreneurial firms in Florida. One company, presenting as a part of the i2 Capital Acceleration Program, will also be awarded $100,000 by Space Florida and receive commercialization assistance from the TRDA. Click here. (8/27)

SpaceX: Solyndra in Space (Source: Big Government)
Despite the news and pictures from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, America's once great space program is on life support because we no longer have a serious manned space exploration program. We now pay the Russians $65 million per seat to take our astronauts to and from the space station. And the Obama Administration's unimaginative and amateurish vision for space exploration -- even if successful -- will not revive the dying program. It merely follows the disturbing pattern of the Solyndra scandal, funneling tax dollars to Obama donors and fundraisers.

With the recent successful test of SpaceX’s low-Earth-orbit vehicle and the Mars rover sending pictures back to Earth, the space program got some much need positive press, but sadly no results that change the death watch. SpaceX is a long way away -- perhaps a decade or more based on the substantial delays to date -- from being able to safely carry humans to and from the space station. Even if SpaceX can eventually safely carry astronauts to the space station, it will not constitute a serious space exploration program.

Sadly, NASA is transitioning from being a highly respected nonpartisan space exploration agency to just another arm of Obama’s political operation -- wasting tax dollars on friends, diminishing America's global leadership in space exploration, and ensuring that if we continue down this path, we will fall behind China, Russia, India, and others. This will have dire implications for our economy and national security. (8/27)

Solyndra in Space?? (Source: Open Market)
Here we go again. It’s unfortunate that so many supposed conservatives are opposed to competitive markets in spaceflight, to the point that they embarrass themselves with ignorant rants against the Obama space policy, one of the very few things that the administration has gotten sort of right. To address all of the ill-informed nonsense [included in the article] unfortunately requires a good old-fashioned fisking. Click here. (8/27)

Mojave Spaceport Seeks to Expand Activities for Tenants (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Mojave Air and Space Port is looking to expand the types of tests and activities that its tenants can undertake at the desert facility. Last week, the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) Board of Directors approved a plan to hire ICF, Inc. of Fairfax, Va., to conduct a health and safety evaluation as part of the airport’s update of its spaceport license with the FAA. Spaceport licenses are updated every five years.

Mojave spaceport Chief Operating Officer Kevin Wojtkiewicz said ICF’s health and safety analysis will look at the impacts of additional tests and activities that tenants at the airport are interested in doing in the future. Once the analysis is completed, the airport will be able to grant approvals to tenants without having to go back to seek permission from the FAA.

Airport officials have been talking with companies about other types of activities they are interested in doing. Wojtkiewicz would not elaborate on specifics, citing confidentiality. In a letter to Wojtkiewicz, ICF said it had assisted the FAA Office of Commercial Transportation in preparing an environmental assessment of SpaceShipTwo’s powered flights out of Mojave. The FAA gave approval for the test flights, which are set to begin at the end of the year. (8/27)

XCOR Wooed Away From California (Source: CBS)
XCOR Aerospace, currently based in Mojave, Calif., will relocate its headquarters and set up a research and development center in Midland, Texas, leaving only an operations center, and possibly some flight test activities, in Mojave. Asked if XCOR was wooed away from California, company founder and chief executive Jeff Greason told Space News, "In short, yes."

"I love Mojave, and it's a fabulous place to do R&D and I expect it will be a fabulous place to operate, but ultimately we are running a business and where we decide to put different aspects of the business in the long term has to be based on where we find the best business conditions. It's a complicated weighing of all the factors involved but ultimately we decided it that it was time to move the R&D operation of the company somewhere and Midland is the place that we chose."

XCOR and NASA are working through Space Florida, a state-backed economic development agency, to iron out an agreement that would allow XCOR to build a manufacturing facility and fly from Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). XCOR would be the second commercial tenant at the shuttle's idled runway, joining Starfighters Inc., which provides high-altitude training and equipment test flights aboard privately owned Lockheed F-104 supersonic jets. (8/27)

Editorial: Don't Let Congress Turn Back Clock by Cutting NOAA, NASA Via Sequestration (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Last year's Budget Control Act requires across-the-board cuts to NASA and NOAA beginning in January — but due to advance notification requirements on employee terminations and contracting requirements, the impact will be felt sooner, before the fall election. A cut of 9.1 percent to NASA next year would eliminate $1.6 billion from its budget. NOAA's weather satellite programs would be cut by $182 million.

In short, sequestration would hit space programs like a tidal wave, making the programs' current cost and schedule challenges seem inconsequential. Last year, NOAA tested 1960s technology to see what the 2010 "Snowmaggedon" forecast would have been using only buoys and weather balloons for modeling data. Without satellites, the models underestimated snowfall by 10 inches — about one-fifth — of the storm that paralyzed much of the Mid-Atlantic for days.

Don't let sequestration take weather forecasting back to the 1960s. NOAA satellite systems save lives and money at a time when our weather is becoming more volatile. Congress must end sequestration, and ensure that communities continue to receive the information they need to keep people safe. (8/27)

NOAA Finalizes JPSS-1 Contracts Totaling $655.5M (Source: Space News)
NOAA will pay industry $655.5 million to build the second of five spacecraft the agency will use to collect weather and climate data as part of a $12.9 billion polar-orbiting satellite program scheduled to run through 2028. The spacecraft, essentially a clone of the Suomi NPP satellite that launched in November, is called JPSS-1, after the Joint Polar Satellite System project of which it is a part.

JPSS-1 is slated to launch in fall 2017 aboard a Delta 2 rocket from Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. On Aug. 13, NOAA said NASA, which is managing JPSS-1 development for NOAA, finalized contracts with four companies, Raytheon, Ball Aerospace, ITT Exelis, and Northrop Grumman. (8/24)

Remember Armstrong with Space Exploration That Actually Matters (Source: New Statesman)
But no matter how impressive the trip to the Moon was, we mustn't forget that it was as much a product of imperialistic showmanship as an urge for exploration. America went, not to indulge their, and our, curiosity, but to shove a big, lunar, stars and stripes in the face of the Russians. That doesn't lessen the magnitude of the achievement, but it does put a question mark over the idea of repeating it.

We know we can put people on Mars. The technical aspects are tricky, but not much more so than putting an SUV-sized rover there. And there's not actually a huge amount of curiosity which would be sated. We've sent four science labs to Mars, of increasing complexity. We've got hi-def photography, 3D scenes, panoramas; we've got chemical analysis of the rocks, satellite pics of geographic features and left miles of wheel grooves from exploration. In short, we've got everything other than a photo of a person standing on the planet.

If we are to use the death of the old generation of explorers to spur on a revival in the idea for this generation, let's also learn from their mistakes. Don't follow a paradigm which results in 0.0000003 per cent of the planet making it out of orbit; create a new one, which lets this massive achievement change the lives of many, rather than a lucky (or foolhardy) few. In short, we need to build a space elevator. (8/27)

Space Elevator to the Lunar Surface 'Could Be Built Today' (Source: Daily Mail)
A space elevator capable of taking robots and humans back to the surface of the moon can be built today, a California firm has claimed. The radical Liftport system would allow cheap and simple access to the lunar surface via a ‘ribbon’ cable. Eventually it is hoped a 'space elevator' could even take people from earth directly to the lunar surface. Click here. (8/27)

Spaceport Land Sale Bid in Dispute (Albuquerque Journal)
The city of Truth or Consequences’ bid to sell 6.2 acres of land to a state agency for the construction of one of two Spaceport America welcome centers was declared invalid last week because municipal officials did not disclose decades-old federal restrictions on the use of the land.

After TorC City Manager Juan Fuentes on Wednesday provided the state with a 1984 letter from the Bureau of Land Management claiming the restrictions lapsed 28 years ago, deliberations about the validity of the city’s bid for a spaceport welcome center site were reopened. The city and two groups that protested the city’s winning bid have until noon Sept. 4 to file briefs on the dispute with state Economic Development Department’s general counsel, Wade Jackson. (8/27)

Roberts Gears Up Campaign to Unseat Posey (Source: SPACErePORT)
Shannon Roberts, a retired NASA senior executive at Kennedy Space Center, is campaigning as a Democrat to unseat Republican Bill Posey to represent Florida's 8th Congressional District. The newly redrawn district includes the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, both Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Before redistricting, Rep. Posey represented only CCAFS, while Rep. Sandy Adams represented KSC. (Adams lost her primary bid against Rep. John Mica.) Since retiring from NASA, Roberts has served on the city council for Cape Canaveral. Learn more about Shannon Roberts here. (8/27)

NASA's Mighty Eagle Preparing the Way for New Generation of Robotic Spacecraft (Source: Huntsville Times)
Mars Curiosity is NASA's superstar lander, but a little robot flyer in Huntsville is pointing the way to something Curiosity can't do: land almost anywhere. Unlike the Mini Cooper-sized Curiosity, Marshall's Mighty Eagle is only 4 feet tall and 450 pounds. It is built with off-the-shelf hardware and, compared to Curiosity, you'd call it cheap.

What excites Marshall engineers isn't the Mighty Eagle itself, but the computer programs they've written to get it off the ground and back again. Future generations of those same algorithms could guide robot spacecraft to safe docking with space debris in need of clearing, rockets in need of refueling, and even landers lifting off the moon with samples. (8/27)

Go Planet Trekking for Alien Earths (Source: Discovery)
Astronomers Stephen Kane and Dawn Gelino at NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech are giving scientists and the public a chance to explore potentially habitable extrasolar planets in a way once described only in the imaginations of science writers. For example, in the Star Trek universe characters often talked of worlds categorized as "Class M" planets; Earth-like places inhabited by various aliens. Today, exoplanets have become reality and big business for budding astronomers.

New detection techniques, better sensitivity, atmospheric measurements and new theoretical modeling have unveiled a host of planet more diverse that imagined in science fiction. Like Star Trek's "Class M" planets, astronomers today can accurately characterize the orbits of exoplanets and infer properties of their atmospheres and surface conditions -- though an alphabetical classification system has yet to be realized. (Star Trek's M designation was likely inspired by the more than century-old stellar color-luminosity classification: OBAFGKML.) Click here. (8/27)

Orbital Sciences Readies for ISS Resupply Mission (Source: Washington Post)
Virginia-based Orbital Sciences was founded 30 years ago with a goal of helping to commercialize the government-dominated world of space. Late this year, the company will have an opportunity to show its own readiness for a much larger role as it makes its first resupply mission to the International Space Station. With the end of NASA’s shuttle program and shrinking government budgets, NASA has refocused its attention on the capabilities of commercial companies.

The agency awarded both Orbital and California-based SpaceX resupply contracts, marking a new opportunity for private space firms. Orbital received a two-part deal. In the first stage, it has shared costs with NASA to develop the needed technology, and in the second, under a $1.9 billion contract, it will deliver 20 metric tons of supplies to the space station.

Now, the company is readying to launch space modules to the station that will deliver the material, take away the station’s trash and then burn up as they reenter the atmosphere. On site at its Dulles complex are five units of the Cygnus — the space module that acts as the brains of the operation, using sensors and software to navigate itself to the space station. Attached to the Cygnus will be the cargo module, which is being built by Thales Alenia. (8/27)

Why Space is Good for Business (Source: Wall Street Journal)
What’s next for space exploration? The number of men who have actually walked on the moon is dwindling (only eight of the twelve who did it, all Americans, are still alive). And a human hasn’t visited the surface of the moon since Eugene Cernan in 1972. The Journal asked Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, to reflect on the passing of Armstrong–and the possibility of man building on his accomplishments and going to Mars.

According to Neil deGrasse Tyson: "The country needs to understand the value and role of space exploration on the urges of a nation to innovate. This cultural shift imagines a tomorrow that only creativity in science and engineering can deliver. It’s this ‘innovation nation’ that will assure a stable economic future in the 21st century. Meanwhile, for a truly space-faring nation, destination does not matter as much as the capacity to access any parts of space that science, business, national security or geopolitics mandates.” (8/27)

Say Farewell to Endeavour at KSC on Sep. 17 (Source: KSCVC)
Join us September 17, 2012, as space shuttle Endeavour departs Kennedy Space Center for the last time. In celebration of the fly-out, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is hosting four days of activities. Guests have the opportunity to view Endeavour as it is placed atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft during a special tour and to see the astronaut crew from Endeavour's final mission STS-134. A limited number of guests even have the opportunity to witness the departure of Endeavour from the Shuttle Landing Facility. Click here. (8/27)

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