September 11, 2012

Garver Hits Back on Space Policy Direction, Destinations (Source: Space News)
"There are some who believe that NASA has lost its edge and is no longer the world's leader in space. In fact, some have suggested that we're now number three. Sounds to me like they're either woefully uninformed or, worse, betting against America. That is never a good bet. So, for those who think our space program is in decline, I have this simple message: President Obama and NASA have Created a Sustainable Vision for Space.

"America continues to lead the world in space exploration. We're successful undertaking missions that other nations can only dream about, unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of American industry to do what it does best and investing in game-changing technology that will revolutionize space travel and life on earth. The best days of our space program are ahead of us. And have no doubt: America's space program is better off than it was four years ago." (9/11)

NASA Begins Vehicle Assembly Building Modifications for SLS (Source:
The giant High Bay 3 (HB-3) platforms – previously used during the stacking and mating of Space Shuttle hardware – are being dismantled and removed from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The giant facility at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is being transitioned from Shuttle operations to accommodate the Space Launch System (SLS). Click here. (9/11)

Foundation Offers $200 Prize for SLS Cartoon/Joke (Source: SFF)
The Space Frontier Foundation today announced a contest for the best suggestion on what Congress could do with the Space Launch System (SLS). This Ridiculous Rocket - truly a Rocket to Nowhere - is a heavy lift launch vehicle with no clear mission and no funded payloads. And one that NASA can't afford. People can enter the contest - with a $200 prize - by clicking here. (9/11)

Masten Loses Xaero in Mojave Test Flight (Source: Masten)
Today, Masten Space Systems conducted a flight test of Xaero to 1 km altitude with the intention of testing flight controls at higher ascent and descent velocities. Our test objectives were met and initial results show the vehicle performed better than expected at altitude. However, the vehicle was lost during final approach to landing, and the initial cause appears to be a throttle valve failure. The most important thing is that our team is safe and with the data from this test, we expect to be flying again soon! Editor's Note: That's the Masten philosophy: fly often, learn with each flight, incorporate improvements. (9/11)

Next Mars Mission Enters Final Phase Before Launch (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Mars Atmosphere And Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission has passed a critical milestone, Key Decision Point-D or KDP-D. The project is officially authorized to transition into the next phase of the mission, which is system delivery, integration and test, and launch. MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The goal of MAVEN is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. (9/11)

XCOR Announces FiberDyne as Lynx Mark I Wing Strake Manufacturer (Source: SpaceRef)
XCOR Aerospace's Lynx Mark I suborbital reusable launch vehicle (RLV) wing strake assemblies will be manufactured by FiberDyne Advanced Composites of Tukwila, Washington. The Lynx wing strakes are critical structural components that attach the Lynx fuselage to the wings and hold kerosene fuel, attachment points for the main landing gear, and bays for the vehicle's reaction control thrusters.

The strakes have been designed by XCOR to rigorous design standards that will enable a craft to perform tens of thousands of flights to and from suborbital altitudes exceeding 100 kilometers. The strake has undergone an iterative design process by XCOR engineers and outside independent third party structural and thermal analysis experts from Quartus Engineering in San Diego. (9/11)

NASA Versus Commercial Space? (Source: GLXP)
It’s been an amazing year of progress in commercial space. While underscoring the value of public-private partnerships in the opening of the space frontier, the “slam-dunk” success of the SpaceX F9/Dragon ISS flight proved that entrepreneurial efforts can be successfully leveraged with government incentives to do great things. In the same spirit, NASA continued extending this model beyond Earth orbit with the “Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD)” program, selecting Moon Express and two other U.S. companies for additional data purchases arising from their commercial lunar development activities.

Moon Express is excited to be partnered with NASA to help prove how the private sector can respond quickly to incentivized market opportunity. We're one of many examples of how commercial space entrepreneurship is working synergistically with NASA. NASA versus Commercial Space? That's a false dichotomy. The answer lies in partnerships. Click here. (9/11)

Arianespace Signs Multi-Launch Agreement with SKY Perfect JSAT of Japan (Source: SpaceRef)
Shinji Takada, Representative Director, President and Chief Executive Officer of SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, and Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, today announced the signature of a Multi-Launch Services Agreement (MLSA), which guarantees the availability and flexibility of Arianespace's launch services in the near future. SKY Perfect JSAT is Japan's leading satellite operator.

Arianespace opened its Tokyo office in 1986, and since then it has won a total of 27 contracts in Japan out of the 36 open to competition, giving it a market share of 75%. Arianespace has become the benchmark launch service company for Japanese operators, and also launched the LDREX 1 and 2 payloads for Japanese space agency JAXA. (9/11)

How Well do Astronauts Sleep in Space? (Source: The Age)
NASA crews could be forgiven for craving more shut-eye when Mission Control beams wake-up music into their space shuttle daily (usually a song for a chosen astronaut; Houston takes requests). Harvard Medical School sleep expert Laura Barger shed light on their peculiar health and safety risks when visiting Monash University colleagues last month, on a Harvard Club of Australia Fellowship — with lessons for shift workers on Earth, too. Click here. (9/11)

First Annual Space Coast Robotics Day on Sep. 22 (Source: CCTS)
The Canaveral Council of Technical Societies (CCTS) will host the First Annual Space Coast Robotics Day on Sep. 22 from 9AM-5PM at Roosevelt Elementary School in Cocoa Beach. This day-long event will feature demonstrations and discussion of robotics technology at all levels from elementary school robotics clubs, to high school competitive robotics teams, university competitions and research, and finally the latest in NASA’s robotic exploration of space. The event is free and open to the public. Click here. (9/11)

Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX Bite Into First CCiCap Milestones (Source: Flight International)
The three companies selected by NASA for its commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) program - Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX - are beginning to reach their initial development milestones, which will see them receive the first tranche of funding under the scheme. CCiCap is designed to stimulate the development of crew transportation capabilities to low Earth orbit and each of the three companies involved in the program has a set of targets to hit in order to receive payment from the space agency. Click here. (9/11)

CERN to Build Larger Collider to Solve How Gravity Works (Source: Business Standard)
The Large Hadron Collider that found the 'God particle' might be replaced by an even larger collider to solve new mysteries of the universe, such as how gravity interacts on a molecular level. Researchers from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) are proposing a new underground accelerator with a circumference of 80 kilometers - three times the size of the current one under Geneva. Any new collider is unlikely to be built until 2025, but the CERN team wish to get a head-start, concerned by the 25-year wait it took between proposing the first collider, and its completion in 2008. (9/11)

NASA and German Aerospace Center Sign Civil Aviation Agreements (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have signed two cooperative agreements to advance air traffic management benefiting airline passengers and citizens of both nations. The agreements were signed at a Berlin Air Show ceremony by NASA's Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Research Dr. Jaiwon Shin and DLR's Executive Board Member for Aeronautical Research Rolf Henke.

The agreements bring together two dynamic research organizations that have a mutual interest to advance air transportation automation for the benefit of the aviation industry under the Next Generation Air Transportation System in the United States and the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Joint Undertaking in Europe. (9/11)

How Should Kenya Embrace Space-Based Technology? (Source: KenyaSpace)
A nationally driven initiative to embrace space-based technology is intrinsically a Kenyan domestic affair fostered by local stakeholders in the field. A mechanism to identify the methodology of assimilating space technology highlighting the corresponding priority areas will fall squarely on the shoulders of the government. The government is sole the custodian of the common wealth and collective life-improvement aspirations of all Kenyans.

Consequently, it has to use the common wealth to make the requisite investments in space technology in order to communally improve the lives of the people by facilitating national development. Unlike the previous two approaches—Continental and Regional, a national scheme enjoys more political flexibility and policy dexterity. It is relatively easier for the national government to formulate and adopt policy based on the identified priority needs of Kenyans.

Moreover, the government possesses capacity to guarantee the necessary legislation and political framework essential to implement space-based technology. However, even within the state-centric context of embracing space technology, impetus to locally advance space technology can be spearheaded from a number of possible fronts. The natural emergence of these fronts and the extent of their involvement will be largely dependent on the scope of government enthusiasm and participation in the advancement of space technology. (9/9)

Space Tourism Is Here! Wealthy Adventurers Wanted (Source: New York Times)
WEDGED between a strip-mall chiropractor and a cluster of optometrists in Rochester, N.Y., the offices of the DePrez Group of Travel Companies hardly seems like the kind of place where someone would begin a journey to the stars. But Craig Curran, the company’s president, says that’s exactly where he can take you — provided, of course, that you have a spare $200,000 lying around.

Mr. Curran, you see, is a so-called “accredited space agent” for Virgin Galactic, an outfit founded by the multitasking mogul Richard Branson that is promising to take hundreds of high rollers some 60 miles up in a futuristic craft known as the SpaceShipTwo. And while the flight lasts only two hours or so, with a mere five minutes spent coasting in weightlessness, the bragging rights will go on forever.

“If you could say my family came over on the NiƱa, the Pinta or the Santa Maria, this is the equivalent,” said Mr. Curran, wearing a black Virgin Galactic T-shirt and an enthusiastic smile. “You are part of the birth of an industry.” Virgin Galactic may be aloft as soon as next year, just one among a handful of companies competing to take amateur astronauts to the upper reaches of the atmosphere — and beyond. (9/7)

The Story of the Only American Not on Earth on September 11th (Source: The Atlantic)
When astronauts describe the feeling of sailing around space, looking at our planet from hundreds of miles above, they often invoke the phrase "orbital perspective," a shorthand for the emotional, psychological, and intellectual effects of seeing "the Earth hanging in the blackness of space." This is characterized by awe, and as astronaut Ron Garan puts it, "a sobering contradiction. On the one hand, I saw this incredibly beautiful, fragile oasis -- the Earth. On the other, I was faced with the unfortunate realities of life on our planet for many of its inhabitants."

This tension was particularly poignant on 9/11, when the effects of violence on Earth were actually visible from space, as captured in the photograph above. At the time, three people were not on Earth: Russian astronauts Mikhail Tyurin and Vladimir Dezhurov, and American Frank Culbertson, making Culbertson the only American not on Earth during the 9/11 attacks.

Over the course of that night and into the following few days, Culbertson wrote a letter to those at home, and his words echo that orbital perspective Garan describes. "It's horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point," he wrote. "The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche." (9/11)

Vesta in Dawn's Rear View Mirror (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA's Dawn mission is releasing two parting views of the giant asteroid Vesta, using images that were among the last taken by the spacecraft as it departed its companion for the last year. The first set of images is a color-coded relief map of Vesta's northern hemisphere, from the pole to the equator. It incorporates images taken just as Dawn began to creep over the high northern latitudes, which were dark when Dawn arrived in July 2011. The other image is a black-and-white mosaic that shows a full view of the giant asteroid, created by synthesizing some of Dawn's best images. Click here. (9/11)

FAA Grants $76M to Improve Airport Infrastructure (Source: NYC Aviation)
The Department of Transportation on Friday announced a set of Federal Aviation Administration grants totaling nearly $76 million to improve aviation infrastructure at eight airports across the country. The announcement came shortly after President Barak Obama promised infrastructure investment in his acceptance speech last week at the Democratic National Convention.

Editor's Note: Some have argued that the airport improvements trust fund should be available for spaceport infrastructure projects, but spaceports and spaceflight companies don't contribute to the trust fund the way airports and airlines do, with fuel and ticket surcharges. Perhaps space transportation leaders should find a way to contribute to the trust fund so they can benefit from future infrastructure improvement grants. (9/11)

Russia's Deputy PM Says Country Must Shoot for Moon Base (Source: Reuters)
Russia should set itself the "super goal" of building a large base on the Moon it could use to achieve "leaps" in science and to give a new sense of purpose to its troubled space program, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday. Calling the task "big, prestigious and political", Rogozin said the country's space industry - which has suffered a string of costly and embarrassing failures - urgently needed a tangible stimulus to force it to focus.

"There is a lot of competition among countries in the space sector and so we must have a big super goal that could pull forward science and industry; that would enable the country to escape from the morass of problems, which have kept us captive for the past 20 years," Rogozin told the Vesti FM radio station. "Why not try to build a big station on the Moon that would be a base for future 'leaps' of science?".

Russia's renewed focus on the Moon may reflect a scaling back of ambition following a string of space failures and comes as other countries - notably China - are eyeing the Moon with greater ambition. Beijing plans to land its first probe there next year even though it still has a long way to go to catch up with space superpowers Russia and the United States. (9/11)

Mysterious Changes in Ocean Salt Spur NASA Expedition (Source: LiveScience)
Over the past 50 years, the salty parts of the oceans have become saltier and the fresh regions have become fresher, and the degree of change is greater than scientists can explain. Researchers are heading out into one particularly salty ocean region, in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, in the hopes of better understanding what drives variation in salinity in the upper ocean.

Ultimately, they hope, research like this will offer insight on the dynamics behind the dramatic changes in the ocean's salt content. Many oceanographers have a hunch about what is going on: Climate change. "Climate is changing all the time, and some of that change is due to natural variation," Schmitt said. "The 50-year trend we are talking about, most of us believe is really due to the general trend of global warming" said Ray Schmitt.

This matters because the ocean is at the heart of the planet's water cycle: 86 percent of global evaporation and 78 percent of global precipitation occur over the ocean, according to NASA, the lead entity behind the project, called Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS). Over the ocean, more evaporation as compared to precipitation translates into saltier water. Meanwhile, in regions where precipitation is favored, water is fresher. Click here. (9/9)

Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority Pursues Shuttle Strip (Source: Florida Today)
The Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority, which operates three general-aviation airports on the Space Coast, now wants to take over operations of KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility as part of a two-pronged approach to attract more space-related companies to the area. The Authority is asking the County Commission to approve a resolution to indicate that the authority “is the logical choice to be the entity responsible for assisting NASA in repurposing the Shuttle Landing Facility as a multiuser spaceport.”

Kennedy Space Center is seeking applications by Sept. 24 to operate and maintain the landing site and surrounding facilities, and could decide on a governmental or commercial operator by next spring. The new operator could take over as early as October 2013. Authority Board Chairman Jerry Sansom said being selected by KSC to operate the Shuttle Landing Facility would work well in conjunction with the authority’s separate ongoing effort to have its Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville designated a spaceport by the FAA. (9/11)

India Launches Remote Sensing Satellite (Source:
An Indian rocket placed a commercial remote sensing satellite into orbit on Sunday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center and placed the SPOT 6 satellite into orbit. The satellite, built by EADS Astrium for its own Astrium GeoInformation Services subsidiary, will provide imagery with resolutions as sharp as 1.5 meters.

A twin satellite, SPOT 7, is scheduled for launch in 2014, and will work in tandem with SPOT 6 as well as the Pleiades very high resolution imaging satellites. The PSLV also placed into orbit the student-built Proiteres microsatellite from Japan. The launch was the Indian space agency's 100th mission, and India's prime minister attended the launch. (9/11)

Roscosmos Space Agency Recalls Briz-M Upper Stage Batch (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Russian space agency Roscosmos will recall the entire batch of Briz-M upper stages, one of which caused the launch of a Proton-M carrier rocket to fail in August, the agency’s chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday. “The decision has been made to recall and thoroughly examine the entire batch of Briz-M upper stages,” Popovkin told journalists. “Each upper stage will be dismantled.”

Popovkin earlier said the failure had been caused by a fault in the Briz-M’s fuel pipe. A special commission looking into the causes of the failure said pressure in the upper stage had fallen sharply following the vehicle's second engine burn, causing the Proton-M rocket to spin out of control. “This is 100 percent a manufacturing defect,” the Roscosmos chief said. (9/11)

Dust to Dust to Space (Source: NewSpace Watch)
When the SpaceX Falcon 9 launched the Dragon spacecraft to the ISS last May, it also launched a canister attached to the second stage containing the cremated remains of 320 people including Mercury Seven NASA astronaut L. Gordon Cooper and Star Trek actor James Doohan (“Mr. Scott”). Celestis, Inc. arranged for the payload to fly on what they called The New Frontier Memorial Spaceflight. Celestis has sent nearly a dozen such payloads on suborbital and orbital flights and even sent one to the Moon.

The market for space burial could become a significant one worldwide and other firms have appeared. For example, the Scottish company Alba Orbital plans to use cubesats for such a service (link via Rocketeers). There is also the New Mexico firm Heavenly Journeys. The main barrier to this service has been the lack of affordable access to space but this should ameliorate as multiple commercial suborbital and orbital launch providers appear on the scene. (9/10)

Commercial Crew Selection Details Reveal Boeing Aversion to Investment (Source: Innerspace)
What is perhaps most interesting about NASA's CCiCap selections is the one significant “ding” on the Boeing proposal. Rated very high on the technical merits, the Boeing plan was questioned due to the lack of sufficient financial commitment. Given that Boeing is a far larger corporation than any of the other competitors it tends to reinforce the idea that as one of the aerospace “primes” it is not going to do any more than it absolutely has to without being paid for the effort.

And at the end of the day always expects the government to step in and pick up the tab for cost overruns. Consequently, it will be very interesting to see what happens when it is time to schedule and fund ascent abort test which Boeing withdrew from its proposal several months ago. (9/10)

Astronaut's Death a Giant Leap for Collectors (Source: Wall Street Journal)
It has delivered the kind of return that every investor yearns for, doubling in value in just two weeks. But it isn't a hot new public offering or a company coming off a stellar earnings report. It is Neil Armstrong's autograph. Since his death on Aug. 25, demand for anything signed by the first man to walk on the moon has surged, with asking prices climbing by as much as 100% to $10,000 for an autographed photo, according to dealers.

That surge has sparked an admittedly morbid discussion over how the passing of a well-known figure influences autograph and memorabilia prices. It is an issue that comes up frequently in the fast-growing autograph market, where annual sales have risen from $300 million a decade ago to $1.5 billion today, according to Paul Fraser Collectibles, a British dealer that tracks the field. (9/10)

Pillaging the Moon for the Promise of Space Energy (Source: Discovery)
Between 1969 and 1972, Apollo astronauts brought just under 842 pounds of rocks and regolith back from the Moon. In 1985, engineers at the University of Wisconsin discovered significant amounts of Helium-3 in the lunar soil. Helium-3 is a stable isotope of helium -- the gas we use to fill party balloons with -- and is notable because it's missing a neutron, an important property that means we can used it in nuclear fusion reactions to produce clean energy. Unfortunately, our most plentiful stores of the isotope are a quarter of a million miles away.

Current nuclear power plants use fission reactors, splitting uranium nuclei to release energy. This heat turns water into steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity. Unfortunately, radioactivity, spent nuclear fuel reprocessed into uranium, plutonium, and radioactive waste are by-products of this reaction. To get away from fission power, scientists have been working on nuclear fusion energy. Click here. (9/11)

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