August 8, 2012

New Earth-From-Space Image Captured by ESA Satellite (Source: Huffington Post)
Europe's latest weather satellite has captured its first picture of the Earth, and it's a pretty one. Launched on July 5 by the European Space Agency, the MSG-3 is performing well and on its way to becoming active after six months of development. Click here to see the August 7 image. (8/8)

Russian Prime Minister to Convene Meeting on "Crisis" in Space Industry (Source: Space Policy Online)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will convene a meeting next week to discuss the "crisis" in the Russian space industry following Monday's Proton rocket failure. Itar-Tass calls the current situation a "deep crisis," estimating that the failure of the Proton's Briz upper stage represents a loss of 6-8 billion rubles. "Russia is losing not only money, but also the reputation of the country," Itar-Tass lamented. Russia was the leading global commercial launch provider last year, with 56 percent of the market according to the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Europe was second with 22 percent. The United States had no commercial launches in 2011. (8/8)

California Science Center Reveals Road Trip for Endeavour (Source: CollectSpace)
Space shuttle Endeavour's final flight plan — and road trip map — were revealed on Wednesday (Aug. 8), previewing the cross-country, and cross-county, routes the retired NASA orbiter will follow before landing at the California Science Center for display. Endeavour, the youngest of NASA's shuttles having been built after the 1986 space shuttle Challenger tragedy, flew 25 space missions between 1992 and 2011. Next month, it will embark on "Mission 26," which will (tentatively) span 26 days to travel from Florida to the Los Angeles museum. (8/8)

Florida Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky Workers Rally Against Defense Spending Cuts (Source: Sun-Sentinel)
Workers at Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky are staging a rally at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to protest defense spending cuts mandated at year-end. Pratt president David Hess and U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-FL, are scheduled to speak at the rally. The rally will be held in Jupiter, next to the Pratt/Sikorsky campus off Beeline Highway in northwestern Palm Beach County.

More than 200 jobs could be created in Palm Beach County if Pratt's parent firm United Technologies Corp. decides to expand its business in the county. The Palm Beach County Commission recently approved up to $1 million in property tax breaks along with $400,000 in county payments if Pratt adds workers to its campus west of West Palm Beach. (8/8)

FAA Chief Says Drones Will Force Change at Agency (Source: Washington Times)
For the FAA, regulating the skies is about to get much more complicated. The FAA’s acting administrator, Michael P. Huerta, told drone industry leaders gathered in Las Vegas on Tuesday that the agency is poised to “realign” itself to prepare for the coming explosion of unmanned aerial vehicles. They’re now available only to military and law enforcement, but the FAA will begin granting personal and commercial licenses in 2015. It estimates that there could be as many as 30,000 drones flying above the U.S. by 2020.

“We need to change the way we do business,” said Mr. Huerta, who oversees the agency’s 47,000 employees and $16 billion budget. “We’ve looked ahead over a decade out and we know where we want to be in 2025, but the FAA’s internal structures were created when the agency was formed 50 years ago. We know we need to realign.” (8/8)

Obama Signs Bill Requiring White House to Detail Fiscal Cliff (Source: The Hill)
President Obama on Tuesday signed a law requiring the White House budget office to reveal exactly how automatic budget cuts looming in January 2013 will be carried out. The Sequestration Transparency Act was passed by the House in July by a 414-2 vote. The Senate approved it unanimously later in the month. Under last August’s debt-ceiling deal, $109 billion in automatic spending cuts are to hit in January to punish politicians for failing to come up with a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan last year as part of the supercommittee process.

The administration must issue its report to Congress in 30 days. The report will come close to the election and could focus the debate on the ballooning deficit and looming cuts to defense — two themes that Mitt Romney has been emphasizing in his campaign against Obama. In total, sequestration will require $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years to reduce the deficit. Roughly half of those cuts would be made to defense spending. (8/8)

Galactic Suite To Send Rover to Moon on Chinese Launcher in 2014 (Source: GLXP)
The Barcelona-based company, Galactic Suite, leading the industrial conglomerate, Barcelona Moon Team, announced it has signed a launch service contract for a Chinese rocket that will carry the Spanish robot to the Moon in June 2014 to attempt to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE. The Google Lunar X PRIZE, the largest incentivized competition offered to date, challenges space professionals and engineers from across the globe to build and launch to the moon a privately funded spacecraft capable of completing a series of exploration and transmission tasks. (8/8)

SNC Evaluating KSC Facilities for Dream Chaser Fleet (Source:
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have stepped up their evaluations into finding a suitable facility to house the Dream Chaser fleet in Florida. With the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) confirmed as their fleet’s HQ, several buildings – ranging from an Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) to other available buildings at the famous spaceport – may become viable options.

Dream Chaser will not launch from the Shuttle launch pads at Complex 39, instead it will launch atop of an Atlas V from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral. However, out the three main commercial contenders, it will be the most active at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), utilizing the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) for its return from space, but also using the spaceport for its processing needs.

However, what appeared to be the most obvious option for Dream Chaser’s processing needs, one of two remaining Orbiter Processing Facilities, may not be the facility of choice at this time. “An OPF may not be the ideal facility for our vehicle, because they have all the structures that were specific to the shuttle that would have to be removed. We need a large open area, because our vehicle is much more accessible than the Shuttle was, and we don’t need hazardous operations because of our non toxic propellants we have on-board. But we are looking at using a facility at KSC for our processing.” (8/8)

GeoEye Reports Second Quarter Earnings (Source: GeoEye)
Total revenues were $88.4 million for the second quarter of 2012, a $1.2 million increase from the second quarter of 2011. Net income available to common stockholders for the second quarter of 2012 was $11.7 million, compared to $11.1 million for the second quarter of 2011. Operating profit was $22.1 million for the second quarter of 2012. (8/8)

Names in Space, for Less Than a Cup of Coffee (Source: GLXP)
The JURBAN GLXP team will be launching people’s names into space (on microchips like NASA) and transmitting them out to the universe via radio waves and audio waves, as our robot is in transit to the Moon and after it lands on the Moon. Just imagine your name lasting forever as it's transmitted out to the stars. The audio wave transmissions will be used for educational purposes, to show that sound waves do not travel in the vacuum of space. (8/8)

As Curiosity Explores Mars, Russia’s Spacemen Take Stock (Source: RIA Novosti)
The U.S. has successfully launched its fourth surface rover to Mars in 16 years. Russia, on the other hand, recently endured the painful failure of the Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars and has little to brag about in terms of Red Planet exploration. It seems as though success is no longer a requirement: The domestic space industry now must focus on the gradual recovery of the national space program’s infrastructure rather than the implementation of ambitious outer space exploration projects. Click here. (8/8)

Can Bruce Willis Save Us From Asteroid 'Armageddon'? Not Likely (Source: LA Times)
In the 1998 movie "Armageddon," Bruce Willis plays an oil-drilling platform engineer who leads a team that lands on an asteroid aimed at Earth, drills a hole into its center and explodes a nuclear device that splits the asteroid, saving the planet. Could it actually happen? Definitely not, say physics graduate students at the University of Leicester in England.

Leaving aside the question of whether we have spacecraft that could transport the drilling team to intercept the asteroid, the group of four students concluded that we simply don't have a big enough bomb to split the asteroid so that the two halves would pass by the Earth. Moreover, the asteroid would have to be split at a distance of about 8 billion miles from Earth. That is, coincidentally, about the maximum distance at which such an asteroid could be detected, leaving no time for the group to assemble and travel to the body. (8/8)

Russian Astronauts to Begin Survival Test in Desert Near Baikonur (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian astronauts will spend two days in a desert with a minimal ration of drinking water and food. The survival test will be taken near Baikonur. “Three three-men crews – astronauts and prospective astronauts – will have to live on scanty supplies for two days before rescuers arrive,” said the Cosmonaut Training Center.

A few days ago the survival test takers had a theoretical course, and practice started on Tuesday. The astronauts are supposed to leave the landing module unaided, to make a tent from the parachute for protecting themselves from heat and wind and to get in touch with rescuers on the radio. They carry a six-liter keg of drinking water, a small food ration, clothes, a first aid kit, a radio set, flares and tools. The survival kit was designed 47 years ago after Alexei Leonov and Pavel Belyayev spent two days in the Perm taiga, an unplanned landing site, before rescuers arrived on March 19, 1965.

The survival test will begin for astronauts Sergei Prokopyev and Ivan Vagner and prospective astronaut Alexei Khomenchuk on Wednesday. The crew of astronauts Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and Denis Matveyev and prospective astronaut Andrei Babkin will start taking the test on Aug. 10, and the third crew – astronaut Nikolai Tikhonov and two instructors of the Cosmonaut Training Center – will fight for survival on Aug. 12. Editor's Note: When did they stop calling them "cosmonauts"? (8/8)

Florida Congressional Delegation Urges SpaceX to Stay in Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
The entire Florida Congressional Delegation signed an Aug. 3 letter urging SpaceX to remain in Florida as the company considers launch site alternatives in Texas, Puerto Rico, and Georgia. They cite a "major transformation" at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport that will allow it to grow into a bustling commercial spaceport over the next decade. They suggest that SpaceX can be a driver for that transformation. But if SpaceX "outgrows its facilities at Cape Canaveral, we will work with you to find an additional location in Florida." Click here to see the letter. (8/7)

Dana Rohrabacher, Lamar Smith Jockeying for House Science Committee Chairmanship (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) have begun to quietly campaign to replace Rep. Ralph Hall as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology next year, according to Stu Witt, General Manager and CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port. Witt and his staff hosted a visit by Smith last week to familiarize the Republican Congressman with commercial space activities being undertaken at the California spaceport. Rohrabacher will be visiting the desert facility next Wednesday, Witt added during a meeting of the East Kern Airport District board. (8/8)

Adams and Mica Battle For New Florida District (Source: Sunshine State News)
With a week to go until the primary, the fight between congressional colleagues U.S. Rep. John Mica and U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams continues to intensify -- and Florida Republicans are taking sides. On Tuesday, Adams unveiled the support of two fellow congressional freshmen from the Sunshine State -- U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent and U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross. After serving eight years in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee, Adams won a congressional seat in 2010. Mica was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992. Adams has also been endorsed by fellow freshman U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-FL, and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

But Mica has garnered his own endorsements from prominent conservatives and he will be showcasing one of them on Wednesday. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, best known for his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, will stump with Mica in Sanford. Huckabee’s leadership PAC endorsed Mica over Adams at the end of July. Mica has far outraised Adams so far in the campaign and, on July 25, had around $970,000 in the bank, while Adams had around $453,000.

Editor's Note: Adams' current district includes the NASA-KSC half of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Mica's current chairmanship of the Transportation Committee gives him oversight of FAA issues, including spaceflight responsibilities. The new district they're fighting to represent will not include KSC, but it will begin at the northern boundary of KSC and will include many spaceport workers. (8/8)

Obama Hails NASA's Mars Rover Program as He's Cutting it 40% (Source: Investors Business Daily)
Almost immediately after Curiosity's landing, President Obama, whose minions have been whacking the NASA space budget ruthlessly for money to spend elsewhere while promising grand vague things ahead, issued a statement celebrating American exceptionalism: "The successful landing of Curiosity — the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet — marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination."

Alas, budget cuts have retired the entire U.S. space shuttle fleet scores of missions short of their designed flight lifespans. Highly-trained American astronauts are steadily retiring. While those remaining must rent seats aboard Russian rockets to reach the International Space Station for years to come. While China plans manned Moon landings before 2020, an American return is unlikely in the foreseeable future. So successful have Obama's budget cuts been that NASA has had to pull out of a pair of joint missions with European countries to retrieve Mars rocks for study on Earth. Russia took over the U.S. leadership role. Even another Mars rover mission this decade has become uncertain.

Editor's Note: Budget cuts at NASA are small compared to other non-defense agencies, and they're not "for money to spend elsewhere". Government-wide cuts are the result of a popular demand for less spending across the board. (8/8)

NASA Hopes Recent Successes Will Boost Support in Congress (Source: Florida Today)
The Curiosity rover’s impressive arrival on Mars couldn’t have come at a better time for NASA. The agency, facing budget cuts, increased congressional scrutiny and questions about its direction since the shuttle program ended last year, has worked to remind skeptics the U.S. space program deserves continued support and investment.

“Clearly the success of Curiosity got a lot of people’s attention,” said Roger Launius. “Having now done it, they have a lot of right to say, ‘Look, we can really accomplish the things we’ve been asked to do by the American public.’” But Launius and other space experts caution NASA’s recent successes, remarkable as they are, don’t change the fiscal climate that is compelling President Barack Obama and Congress to constrain the size of the federal government.

If lawmakers are unable to agree on a deal to reduce the deficit cut at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years, automatic spending cuts at almost every federal program will take effect in January. NASA has done relatively well in recent budgets, considering how much other programs have been slashed. Last year, Congress authorized an independent commission to review the agency’s strategic direction. The findings are expected by the end of this year. (8/8)

Looking Up (Source: Space KSC)
As the Mars Science Laboratory aboard the Curiosity landed on Mars, about a thousand people crowded Times Square in New York City to watch. As one, they looked up at a giant screen televising the historic event. Three thousand miles away, a room filled with engineers and scientists erupted in joy as they successfully completed a mission years in the making. The Times Square crowd chanted "NASA! NASA!" after the rover landed. 2012 is shaping up as the year of the Space Geek.

We've seen an entirely new spacefaring technology given birth. SpaceX successfully launched and berthed the Dragon cargo vehicle at the International Space Station. By year's end, the Orbital Sciences Cygnus may have done so as well. The ISS is fully operational. The Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory, has started soliciting proposals for ISS experiments.

Curiosity is the latest space achievement. As evidenced from the Times Square photo, for a few moments, once again people are looking up. It's just my anecdotal impression, but it seems that many of those "looking up" these days are the younger generations who will benefit from all this new technology. Some of those over 50 grouse that the government won't perpetuate 1970s technology and the obsolete job skills that go with it. But the Internet generation seems poised to seize as their own this pivotal moment in human spaceflight history. (8/8)

NASA's Ed Mango to Speak at Space Lunch (Source: Florida Today)
NASA’s Ed Mango will be guest speaker at Tuesday’s Aug. 14 luncheon meeting of the National Space Club at the Radisson Resort at the Port, Cape Canaveral. The program manager of the Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy Space Center will speak on “Innovation and the Next Step in U.S. Space Transportation.” Mango joined NASA in 1986 after serving in the U.S. Air Force, and was most recently KSC deputy director of the launch processing directorate. (8/8)

Space Agency Chief Denies Staff Changes after Proton Failure (Source; RIA Novosti)
Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, on Tuesday denied staff changes in the agency following Monday’s loss of two telecommunications satellites. “Statements by unnamed space and rocket industry officials on personnel decisions allegedly already being made regarding a number of executives, posted in a number of media, are untrue,” Popovkin said, without specifying the media. (8/8)

NASA Developing Space-Bound Submarines and Printable Spacecraft (Source: Russia Today)
NASA has already decided what comes next after Curiosity, namely a submarine to explore Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, Europa, and a robot to land-sail across Venus. These are among 28 futuristic projects selected by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The ambitious projects are split into the categories of Phase I, which has gathered brand new ideas to be developed from scratch, and Phase II, the survivors of 2011’s program. Click here. (8/8)

NASA Cool is Sweeping the Internet, Especially 'Mohawk Guy' (Source: Huntsville Times)
What's the federal agency everybody loves this week? It's NASA, judging by the love shown the space agency by social media and the Internet in general after the successful landing of Curiosity on Mars. Check out the articles, enjoy the young scientists giving the agency geek cool points, and tip your hat, one more time, to the man who became a meme: "Mohawk Guy," aka Bobak Ferdowsi, a Curiosity mission "activity lead." (8/8)

Obama Nominates Syring as MDA Director (Source: Space News)
U.S. President Barack Obama has tapped U.S. Navy Rear Adm. James Syring as the next director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Syring currently is a program executive officer for Integrated Warfare Systems, Naval Sea Systems Command here. Assuming the U.S. Senate confirms Syring’s nomination, he would replace U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, who has held the director’s job since November 2008. (8/8)

NASA Blended Wing-Body Aircraft Lifts Off (Source: NASA)
The remotely operated X-48C Blended Wing Body aircraft lifts off Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on its first test flight Aug. 7, 2012. The sub-scale technology demonstrator, modified from the prior X-48B configuration, is entering a new flight test phase in a partnership between NASA and The Boeing Company's Phantom Works research and technology division.

The aircraft, designed by the Boeing Co. and built by Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. of the United Kingdom, is flying again in partnership with NASA. The new X-48C model, which was formerly the X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft, was modified to evaluate the low-speed stability and control of a low-noise version of a notional, future Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) aircraft design. The HWB design stems from concept studies being conducted by NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation project of future potential aircraft designs 20 years from now. Click here. (8/8)

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