September 13, 2012

AIAA Offers Online Aerospace Research Search Tool (Source: AIAA)
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aerospace Research Central (ARC) electronic database is now available to users. The site, available at, offers users access to over four decades of aerospace research. The platform's robust functionality gives users powerful search capabilities through all of AIAA's books, conference proceedings, and journal articles; offers streamlined research capabilities, including the ability to download citations and bundle content based on topic disciplines; and gives users early access to e-first publications ahead of print.

Users will also be able to tailor the platform's functionality to seek out those things which are most relevant to their personal interests, greatly streamlining the research process. "Such service will move us in the direction we all want to go - towards easier, dependable access of knowledge important to our field." Click here. (9/13)

NASA's Huge New Rocket May Cost $500 Million Per Launch (Source:
The giant rocket NASA is building to carry astronauts to Mars and other destinations in deep space may cost $500 million per launch when it's flying regularly, space agency officials said. NASA is eyeing $500 million as a target right now for the Space Launch System (SLS) when it begins making roughly one flight per year, which could begin happening after 2023. But things could change as the SLS program — which was just announced in September 2011 — matures, officials said.

"We've estimated somewhere around the $500 million number is what an average cost per flight is," SLS deputy project manager Jody Singer, of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said Tuesday. "But again, I'd caution you, because we still are working on our contracts and where we're going," Singer added. "Plus we're in the development phase, and you really have to have a little bit more of a steady-state flight launch to be able to get the more efficient launch rate. But that's the number we're using right now." (9/13)

UAE Air Force Expects To Award Optical-imaging Satellite Contract Soon (Source: Space News)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) air force expects to award a contract for one or more high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites as early as this year after selecting U.S. and European finalists from 11 companies vying for the work, a UAE air force official said. Col. Ali Mohammed Al Shehhi, ground station manager for the air force’s Space Reconnaissance Center, said the UAE satellite effort may seem slow-moving but is very much alive. (9/13)

Iron ‘Blueberries’ May Be Sign of Microbial Life on Mars (Source: Life Scientist)
It’s unlikely anything lives on Mars today, but it may well have done so millions or billions of years past. And it may have left traces of its existence in the geology of the red planet. One such tantalizing hint was discovered by the NASA Opportunity Rover, which found small spherical hematite balls, dubbed ‘blueberries,’ in the Martian soil.

These were originally thought to have provided the first evidence of liquid water on Mars, but their existence may hold an even more profound implication. Now researchers from the University of Western Australia and University of Nebraska have found that such iron-oxide spheroids, when they appear on Earth, are formed by microbes. If the ‘blueberries’ found on Mars are of a similar composition, it could provide long sought strong evidence for the existence of life on the red planet. (9/13)

DOJ Requests Additional information on MDA Acquisition of Loral (Source: SpaceRef)
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has requested further information from MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) in its effort to acquire U.S. based Space Systems/Loral Inc. (SS/L). The second request is part of the ongoing review before the deal can clear the necessary regulatory hurdles and is not considered unduly unusual. According to MDA "a second request may be a part of the review process under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended ("HSR Act"). The second request seeks additional information primarily regarding MDA's Montreal satellite communications antenna and payload business." The request will delay the closing of the deal. (9/13)

NASA Seeks Proposals To Certify Commercial Crew Transportation Systems (Source: NASA)
NASA on Wednesday released a request for proposals for the first of two contract phases to certify commercially developed space systems in support of crewed missions to the International Space Station. Through these certification products contracts, NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will ensure commercial missions are held to the agency's safety requirements and standards for human space transportation system missions to the space station.

NASA's request for proposals outlines a two-phase approach in which the first phase awards will be made to multiple companies. The companies will provide data related to the development of their Crew Transportation System (CTS) design, including a spacecraft, launch vehicle, ground and mission operations and recovery. NASA plans to award up to $10 million to each company in early 2013 for the first phase. The first phase will last about 15 months, during which companies will outline their strategies to meet the agency's required standards and safety requirements before a CTS could be approved to fly NASA astronauts to the space station. (9/13)

Sen. Hutchison Suggests Splitting Up NASA (Source: Space News)
In her last scheduled space hearing with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) on Sep. 13 asked whether NASA might be better off paring back its diverse portfolio of programs and focusing exclusively on human exploration and science missions. “Is NASA’s mission too broad to be able to fully fund the priorities and should we, in the next NASA authorization, look at splitting NASA?” Hutchison asked witnesses during a hearing on the agency’s space exploration plans.

Hutchison, a longtime NASA champion whose 19 years in the Senate will end in January, asked “as an example” whether NASA’s aeronautics program might be better off in the Defense Department. NASA devoted $570 million of its $17.8 billion budget to aeronautics research in 2012. She also pressed the hearing panel of witnesses to suggest programs that should be de-emphasized in order to free up more money for space exploration and science. None of the witnesses would play favorites with NASA’s portfolio, and all three argued against splitting up the agency. (9/13)

U.S. Space Policy Official in Russia for Talks (Source: Interfax)
The U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy, Frank Rose, is visiting Moscow "for U.S.-Russia Space Security Dialogue, continuing efforts to boost stability, security in space," the U.S. Embassy in Russia said in a Twitter message on Wednesday. (9/13)

Noncooperative Capture Start-up Catches NASA, DARPA (Source: Space Safety)
Altius Space Machines has entered an unfunded Space Agreement Act with NASA for development of a Compact Stowable Manipulator (CSM) for the Orion crew vehicle. The Colorado based startup is already under contract with US Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) for services relating to the Phoenix spacecraft designed to recycle orbiting satellites. The two collaborations provide advancements in the capture of orbital debris.

The CSM concept is to provide a collapsible but long-reach robotic arm. Such an arm would serve the same role as the Canadian built arms on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. However, Altius aims to take their arm one step further: “When combined with a noncooperative payload capture technology, the CSM would also enable satellite servicing, small-package delivery/return, and rendezvous/capture of nanosat-scale free flyers or sample return canisters.”

That noncooperative capture payload is what the company calls a “sticky boom,” an extendable arm equipped with a capture mechanism such as electrostatic adhesion. Such a boom could be used to enable satellite servicing and orbital debris removal, in addition to checking on its mount’s thermal protection system and helping out with extravehicular activities. If installed on ISS, the boom could be used to catch deliveries to ISS, thereby lightening rendezvous requirements, allowing for “just in time” delivery of needed supplies. (9/13)

Flight Surgeons: Keeping A Healthy Crew (Source: Space Safety)
In this video interview, NASA Medical Flight Officer Steve Gilmore lends some insight into the job of a Flight Surgeon and how the ISS medical staff works to keep station astronauts healthy – before, during, and after their missions. Gilmore discusses medical aspects from the selection of the astronaut corps to management of the numerous experiments astronauts are party to during their flights to helping crews adjust to their return to Earth. (9/13)

“Massively Redundant” Water Walls Spacecraft To Use Water for Everything (Source: Space Safety)
The Water Walls spacecraft concept, designed at Ames Research Center, aims to achieve lifesupport aboard crewed spacecraft the way nature does – with water. The project, formally known as Highly Reliable and Massively Redundant Life Support Architecture, suggests the use of a hexagonal framework of water-filled bags to form the spacecraft’s walls. The water would protect the enclosed crew from space radiation, but that’s not all. The bags would be filled with filters, algae, and bacteria to provide a complete biosystem, breaking down crew waste products, cleaning the water and air, and providing food. Click here. (9/13)

NASA Delivers Exploration Destinations Report to Congress (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA delivered a report to Congress in August, pursuant to a request that NASA "to better articulate a set of specific, scientifically meritorious exploration goals to focus its program and provide a common vision for future achievements." The report lists three science-based exploration goals, including: search for life; understand our solar system; and understand the future of our planet.

Target destinations include the International Space Station, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars. The schedule offered in the report focuses on robotic missions that are already on NASA's manifest, instead of providing target dates for human exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit. The "Capabilities-Driven" approach would develop ground-based and ISS-based capabilities, leading to a crewed asteroid mission that would ultimately lead to Mars missions. When discussing the report at a conference in California, Lori Garver also mentioned human missions to the Moon. Click here. (9/13)

Tiff Brews Between NASA Ames and NASA HQ? (Source: Mountain View Voice)
Those working to save Moffett Field's historic Hangar One have taken note of reports that Pete Worden, the director of Mountain View's NASA Ames Research Center, may be on his way out. William Berry, former assistant director at Ames, said the report was a backdrop for the fight to save Hangar One, calling it "clear indication that NASA HQ wants to fire Pete Worden in some part for his support of Hangar One."

Worden has spoken publicly in support of reusing the former airship hangar for a modern airship being developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. "Pete Worden always joked about wanting to do such far-out stuff he'd get fired," writes a poster by the name of William Ogilvie. "He is well liked, has accomplished a lot, and will be missed. Six years is a long time at any job in Silicon Valley." (9/13)

Liberty and Antares Notes from AIAA Conference (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Orbital Sciences Corporation is STILL waiting for the Commonwealth of Virginia to turn over the Antares launch site on Wallops Island. The turnover is expected to occur soon. Once it does, Orbital will be able to begin its launch campaign. The company is hoping to conduct the maiden Antares launch in October and a cargo demonstration mission with the Cygnus freighter to ISS in December.

ATK says they plan to continue developing the Liberty rocket with internal funding in the wake of being passed over for NASA’s commercial crew program. The company will focus on developing the launcher for commercial payloads. (9/13)

SpaceX Wins Three Commercial Satellite Launches (Source: LA Biz)
Commercial rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has won a deal with commercial satellite operator SES to launch three additional SES satellites on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rockets. The agreement, concluded through SES’ affiliate company SES-SL, builds on a SpaceX-SES partnership that began in March 2011 with the signing of the agreement for SES-8, due for launch in 2013. All four Falcon missions will support the enhancement of SES’ global fleet of satellites, the companies said jointly. (9/13)

Manned Mars Mission on Track, but Lawmakers Raise Cost Concerns (Source: Florida Today)
A top NASA official told lawmakers Wednesday the agency is on track with its next crewed mission into deep space: a trip to an asteroid and then to Mars. NASA and its team of private contractors are "making excellent progress" toward launching an unmanned test flight in 2017 in preparation for the real mission, Dan Dumbacher told members of a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee.

But space exploration remains delicate and expensive, and NASA has had to navigate the priorities of changing administrations. President Barack Obama called for the Mars mission after scrapping a moon mission sought by President George W. Bush. Even if the engineering goes well, there's a question of money. At a time when Congress is contemplating deep cuts in discretionary programs such as space exploration, NASA might not have the budget it needs over time to sustain the program as currently designed. (9/13)

Moondoggle: The Forgotten Opposition to the Apollo Program (Source: The Atlantic)
Today, we recall the speech John F. Kennedy made 50 years ago as the beginning of a glorious and inexorable process in which the nation united behind the goal of a manned lunar landing even as the presidency swapped between parties. Time has tidied things up. Polls both by USA Today and Gallup have shown support for the moon landing has increased the farther we've gotten away from it. 77 percent of people in 1989 thought the moon landing was worth it; only 47 percent felt that way in 1979.

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, a process began that has all but eradicated any reference to the substantial opposition by scientists, scholars, and regular old people to spending money on sending humans to the moon. Part jobs program, part science cash cow, the American space program in the 1960s placed the funding halo of military action on the heads of civilians. It bent the whole research apparatus of the United States to a symbolic goal in the Cold War. Click here. (9/13)

Japan's HTV-3 Experiences Anomaly After Leaving ISS (Source: America Space)
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) HTV-3 “Kounotori” spacecraft was released by the International Space Station’s (ISS) Canadarm 2 robotic arm on time at 11:50 a.m. EDT – shortly afterward things, in the parlance of engineers, went “off-nominal” with the cargo vessel entering into a ACU (Abort Control Unit) abort. The abort was posigrade without attitude control. The HTV-3 regained attitude control and is on a safe abort trajectory that has placed it above and behind ISS.

JAXA is not sure why the abort happened and is tracking HTV and will report on the spacecraft’s status as information presents itself. The Abort Control Unit is a separate computer in the HTV that can do nothing but main engine open-loop abort maneuvers. (9/13)

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