August 9, 2012

Commercial Crew Safety Certification To Run in Parallel With Spacecraft Development (Source: Space News)
With an eye toward buying its first astronaut taxi services by 2017, NASA on Aug. 8 unveiled details about a safety certification process that will be conducted in parallel with the industry-led development of new crewed space transportation systems. In parallel with the CCiCap design phase, NASA plans to conduct a government-run safety certification process under separate agreements it calls Certification Products Contracts, or CPCs.

“We believe that industry is at a point where they are going to need to make some decisions on their design if they would like to try to go after an ISS design reference mission. The timing for those decisions is now. It isn’t a couple of years from now, it’s now,” said NASA's Ed Mango. No spacecraft can visit the international space station unless NASA certifies that it is safe. A synopsis of the CPC solicitation is due out this month, with a formal request for proposals to follow in September.

The three companies that just won commercial crew Space Act Agreements do not automatically qualify for a CPC award, Mango said. The chief deliverable for the CPC contracts will be data, Brent Jett, Mango’s deputy, said. These will include items familiar to aerospace contractors such as verification records and hazard analysis reports. NASA will use the hazard reports to influence vehicle designs to eliminate those hazards. (8/9)

Martian Landing a Success; Now it's Time to Conquer Costs of Continued Exploration (Source: Deseret News)
Since the heady days of Apollo 40 years ago, NASA hasn't had a lot of dramatic successes that capture the nation's attention. That's understandable. It's hard to follow manned missions to the moon, which required a tremendous investment in resources and national will. That's what makes the landing of "Curiosity" on Mars so noteworthy. No, it is not a manned craft. But its successful landing was a triumph of technology and engineering, and of software that allowed for years of tests using virtual simulations, saving a lot of money that otherwise would have been needed for physical tests.

Mankind has a natural curiosity about the unknown. That, and the hope of finding riches, is what led early explorers to risk their lives crossing uncharted oceans in search of new continents. Space provides limitless opportunities for exploration, and the knowledge gained through NASA's previous successes has unlocked riches in the form of new technologies in a range of applications from medical equipment to everyday GPS devices. But, for all that, the space program in recent years had become too pedestrian to fuel the spirit of exploration. Mars is the natural next goal to conquer. Click here. (8/9)

Mars is Cool, But This is the Mission I Really Want (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The successful Mars Science Lander has received much attention and adulation, and deservedly so. It’s a cool rover and it’s going to do some great science. But the inner science geek in me wants to go further, and to places largely unexplored. To be more specific, I want Europa. One of Jupiter’s moons, Europa has a radius one-quarter that of Earth, and could very well have a water ocean beneath its icy surface. If there’s life in the solar system today off Earth, it’s probably there. Click here. (8/9)

Spaceflight Contracted by USAF for Kestrel Eye 1 Launch - On Falcon-9 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Spaceflight Inc. (Spaceflight) announced that the USAF Space Development and Test Directorate has exercised a contract option to launch the Kestrel Eye 1 imaging nano-spacecraft on a commercial launch in 2013. The USAF previously contracted with Spaceflight to evaluate commercial launch options for the STP Satellite-3 (STPSat-3) and Kestrel Eye 1 Tactical Imaging Spacecraft (Kestrel Eye) spacecraft.

After the conclusion of this feasibility study the Space Development and Test Directorate exercised a contract option to procure commercial launch services for the Kestrel Eye 1 spacecraft. To meet the Kestrel Eye 1 mission requirements, Spaceflight will use its Spaceflight Secondary Payload System (SSPS) – a standardized integrated system for the transport of ESPA class payloads and CubeSats to orbit. The SSPS will be manifested on a commercial Falcon 9 launch in 2013. Spaceflight will develop a custom shelf to carry the Kestrel Eye spacecraft in a standard vertical launch orientation. (8/9)

Rocket Scientists Aren't Exactly Marketers (Source: Forbes)
The Curiosity landing would have been largely unnoticed, just another headline in the “science” section, if it weren’t for another recent NASA discovery: marketing. NASA and the scientific community have in recent history been poor marketers (just ask the Higgs boson geniuses). Marketers aren’t exactly rocket scientists, but rocket scientists aren’t exactly marketers. However, the rover Curiosity shows that some rocket scientists are learning how.

While Curiosity was getting ready to land on the Martian surface, NASA’s PR and marketing team were hard at work. There were viewing parties. Crowds gathered at Times Square to view a live stream of the mission. President Obama gave a shout-out to NASA scientists. For the first time in arguably decades, NASA made science relevant to the public again. The public united and cheered together to witness this spectacular leap in science. How exactly did NASA achieve this and what can others learn? (8/9)

Port Canaveral Gets State Funds for Improvement (Source: Florida Today)
Gov. Rick Scott announced that Florida was fast-tracking its commitment to Port Canaveral in widening and deepening the shipping channel. Florida is kicking in about $24.4 million through the Department of Transportation, while Port Canaveral is adding $8.1 million.

The channel widening project is scheduled to begin in July 2014 and be completed by the fall of 2015. That’s about three years ahead of what was originally planned. The channel improvements are intended to accommodate larger cruise and cargo ships at Port Canaveral and help the area tap into a growing import and export shipping business from Central America and South America.

Editor's Note: Port Canaveral also serves Navy ships and submarines that conduct missile-system operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, the Delta Clipper ship that transports Atlas and Delta rockets to the Cape, and (formerly) NASA's Shuttle SRB recovery ships...which could be used in the future. (8/9)

NASA Selects Small Spacecraft Technology Demonstration Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA has chosen three teams to advance the state of the art for small spacecraft in the areas of communications, formation flying and docking systems. The cutting-edge space technology flights are expected to take place in 2014 and 2015. All selected missions will employ nanosatellites conforming to the CubeSat standard. Click here. (8/9)

Popovkin: Search for Launch Failure not a “Witch Hunt” (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On August 7 V.A. Popovkin led a meeting of the Interagency Commission (IAC) to analyze the causes of the recent Proton/Breeze launch failure. On the first day of the members of the ERM conducted a snapshot of the received telemetry data, from which you can draw a preliminary conclusion about the normal functioning of the management system booster “Briz-M”. It is also noted that the RB engine came out to the nominal thrust, resulting in automatic shutdown to happen.

Addressing the participants of the meeting, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency asked to organize a thorough search for the causes that led to the contingency, and “not a witch hunt.” According to him the degree of culpability of specific officers from the chief of department management representative to the agency, will be judged only after all required verification activities. “There are a number of media statements by unnamed representatives of the aerospace industry has already taken the alleged personnel actions against a number of leaders are not true,” said V.A.Popovkin. (8/9)

Mojave Space Port Moves Ahead with Extensive Improvements Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Mojave Air and Space Port is making a series of infrastructure improvements designed to enhance services for existing tenants and users and to lure new companies to the High Desert test center. The projects include improvements to two of the airport’s three runways, the extension of utilities to new areas, the installation of high-speed Internet services, and the development of a large building for meetings and special events.

The airport is receiving $4.319 million in FAA grants to upgrade runways 4-22 and 8-26. Runway 4-22 is the shortest landing strip at the airport at 3,943 feet and is in the worst shape. It will be rebuilt and outfitted with lights this fall, said spaceport CEO and General Manager Stu Witt said. Once work is completed, it will serve as an excellent crosswind runway.

The recently approved East Kern Airport District (EKAD) budget also includes $400,000 to extend electricity and water to the north side of the airport and $100,000 to extend water to the east side. The north side has rocket test facilities and an aircraft boneyard. Witt has said that expanding utilities could quickly generate an additional 50 jobs. The improvements will also open up new areas of the airport for development. (8/9)

Editorial: Space Exploration is Still a Wonder (Source:
When NASA's car-size science lab touched down on Mars early Monday, there was no human on board to mark the occasion with a memorable quote or flag planting. But the successful landing of the most advanced craft so far to reach our solar next-door neighbor brings ever closer the day when manned visits move out of the realm of science fiction and into reality.

The Curiosity mission is about far more than out-of-this-world science and space travel. As a NASA document noted, the Curiosity mission provided 7,000 jobs in 31 states, not the least being Florida, here on our home planet. The cost was significant: $2.5 billion. At that price, the mission must deliver more than thrills. It should yield useful information that will help the nation better understand science and our solar system, and further the human fascination with worlds beyond our own.

We may get to them, eventually, thanks to experiments such as Curiosity. We hope it inspires millions of schoolchildren to buckle down on their math, science and technical studies — and language, too, so that someday, one of them can eloquently explain what it feels like to be the first human to step onto Mars. (8/9)

Space Lawyers: They Exist (Source: Fast Company)
A James Cameron and Google-backed asteroid mining company has a bevy of them on retainer to help divvy up all that unobtanium. Plus they help craft liability laws for space tourists and consult with governments on extraterrestrial visits. Ambulance chasing only gets you so far. Hitching a ride, metaphorically speaking, on rockets funded by private corporations seeking fortunes beyond Earth's atmosphere is where it's at for eager legal pioneers.

There are stellar opportunities for lawyers specializing in space exploration. Space law is quickly becoming an integral part of the evolving aerospace industry. These lawyers exist in a tightly knit industry that deals with all kinds of practical issues and some that seem cribbed from science fiction. Depending on whether the space lawyer is in private practice or academia, he or she could handle anything from liability laws pertaining to litigious space tourists to the legal framework surrounding human encounters with E.T.

Space lawyers even have their own legal journal and university programs. The marvelously titled Journal of Space Law is published by the University of Mississippi Law School's National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law. Articles in the current issue deal with, among other things, death liability in commercial space flight accidents, international law relating to suborbital flights, and mineral rights for lunar mining. (8/9)

India Gets Ready for Historic 100th Mission (Source: Deccan Herald)
The Indian Space Research Organization is preparing for its 100th mission in September with the commercial launch of two foreign satellites from the spaceport of Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. ISRO plans to launch 720-kg SPOT-6 remote sensing satellite from France (built by ASTRIUM SAS) and a 15-kg Japanese spacecraft Protiers on board the home-grown Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C21) in the second week of September, in a major milestone of sorts. (8/9)

Editorial: Exceptionalism Lost? (Source: Lowell Sun)
Our jaded, digitally dependent world gives our remarkable Mars mission a disinterested shrug. Incessant texting, blogging, tweeting and Facebook time leaves little room in our lives for thoughtful reflection. We'd almost be hesitant to ask Americans today if they even considered the moon landing the most significant 1969 event. After all, a few weeks after the moon landing, a half million free spirits descended on Bethel, N.Y., for a few days of peace, love and music better known as Woodstock.

Also, in August of that year, followers of the demonic Charles Manson murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in a bloody two-day rampage in Beverly Hills. All of which makes the Mars landing so refreshing and invigorating. We fear, however, this remarkable feat will serve as just a blip on our overloaded collective consciousness. This president's plans for NASA don't carry the vision and energy that allowed this country to blaze a trail in space. Yes, it's true we have plenty of problems to confront right here on Earth, but the best in mankind seems to manifest itself when we strive to attain goals seemingly beyond our grasp. (8/9)

Medvedev to Name & Shame Failed Satellite Launch Officials (Source; RIA Novosti)
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday he will name officials responsible for Monday's failed satellite launch next week."I would like to hold a meeting on this next week. It will be prepared by the appropriate deputy prime minister and structures. They are tasked with reporting who should be punished and what to do next," Medvedev told a government meeting in Moscow. He also said Russia's space failures "could not be tolerated anymore... We are losing authority and billions of rubles." (8/9)

NASA's Morpheus Lander Crashes During KSC Test (Source: CFLnews13)
NASA's project Morpheus lander has exploded during a free-flight test Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center. During the test, the capsule tipped over and crashed, caught fire and exploded around 12:40 p.m. "[The] vehicle lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight," said a NASA spokeswoman. "No one was injured, and the resulting fire was extinguished by KSC fire personnel." Here's a video of the crash.

Editor's Note: Morpheus seems like one of those internal NASA projects aimed at keeping its civil servants proficient in some key technologies. The stuff Morpheus is designed to do has been similarly accomplished in recent commercial programs and by the government decades ago in preparation for Apollo. Morpheus was developed with assistance from Armadillo Aerospace. Meanwhile, Masten Space Systems is establishing a launch/landing pad very near the Morpheus pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and will conduct similar missions starting this year. If NASA wants to stay proficient on this technology, maybe they should embed some folks with Masten for some "spin-on" tech transfer. (8/9)

Defense Contractors Say They May Still Issue WARN Notices (Source: Reuters)
Despite the Labor Department's memo saying they don't have to, some defense firms may still send out WARN Act layoff notices to their workforce. Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney say they may send out notices due to layoffs they expect if sequestration defense cuts go through in January. The WARN Act requires employers to notify personnel of large layoffs or plant closure within 60 days. (8/8)

Neil Armstrong Recovers After Heart Bypass Surgery (Source: BBC)
Former US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, is recovering after undergoing heart bypass surgery on Tuesday. Mr Armstrong, who turned 82 on Sunday, had surgery to relieve four blocked coronary arteries. In a statement, NASA administrator Charles Bolden wished the "true American hero" a quick recovery. Fellow Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, tweeted that he was "sending my best wishes for a speedy recovery- we agreed to make it the 50th Apollo Anniversary in 2019". (8/9)

NASA’s ‘Mohawk Guy’ Gets Galaxy of Marriage Proposals (Source: ABC)
Gone are the days when a NASA control room would be filled with guys with buzz cuts and pocket protectors.
In 2012, it’s all about the Mohawk or, specifically, the Mohawk of one now very popular NASA employee, flight director Bobak Ferdowski. Ferdowski has changed his haircut for each mission he’s worked. But a glimpse of a young, Mohawk-wearing guy who knows his aeronautical and astronomical facts enough to land a spacecraft on Mars was enough to make Ferdowski, a University of Washington and MIT graduate, go viral. (8/9)

Our Take: On to Mars (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It's been a while since we've seen a nail-biter like this one. Curiosity is the kind of mission that should remind us — and Congress — why the American space program is worth preserving and protecting. Americans are a curious people, and exploring the heavens appeals to our better nature. It should also serve as a reminder that the nation's space agency is at its best when its goals are audacious. If the public can get so excited about an unmanned rover on Mars, imagine the reaction to human footprints on the Red Planet. (8/9)

Busy Mojave Spaceport Moves to 7-Day-Week Operations (Source: Parabolic Arc)
During the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) meeting on Tuesday, one of the board members asked Stu Witt how busy things are at the Mojave Air and Space Port these days. Witt had been up early that day to help support Scaled Composites’ latest drop test of the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle. He was there to watch the spacecraft glide to a landing at 8:04 a.m. PDT, a time when most people aren’t even at work yet. The tower controller and firefighters had also turned out early to support the test flight.

Between its flight test operations, industrial park, and role supporting the local wind industry, the Mojave spaceport is now operating seven days per week. This coming Saturday, the desert facility will host another “major flight event,” Witt told the board. Saturday tests have been relative rare at the airport until recently. Witt said the spaceport’s busy schedule is creating a lot of work for the airport’s staff.

However, he said the cost of labor in California means that it is more affordable to pay existing staff overtime than to hire new full-time personnel. Temp workers have also been brought in. In order to cut down on staff workload and save money, Witt recommended the EKAD board cut back from two meetings per month to one, with special meetings as needed. This suggestion got a cool reception from EKAD President Jim Balentine, who felt he would not feel as connected to the spaceport by meeting only monthly. (8/9)

New Mars Rover Photos Reveal 'Earthlike' Landscape (Source:
Mars looks remarkably like the California desert in a new photo beamed home by NASA's Curiosity rover, researchers said. In the new black-and-white image, Curiosity's Gale Crater landing site bears a striking resemblance to the desert landscape a hundred miles or so east of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover was built, scientists said. "To a certain extent, the first impression that you get is how Earthlike this seems, looking at that landscape," Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger said. (8/9)

Celebrations Will Welcome Endeavour to Los Angeles (Source:
The space shuttle Endeavour, retired from service after 25 missions that spanned 123 million miles, will star in a remarkable 12-mile parade through the streets of Los Angeles on October 12-13, traveling from the city's international airport to the California Science Center for display at the children's learning complex. (8/9)

No comments: