September 14, 2012

NASA Should Have Expanded Role in Astronaut Safety for Commercial Flights (Source: SpaceRef)
The Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing to review NASA's rationale for selecting three companies to award $1.1 billion to develop competing concepts for human space transportation launch systems. Witnesses and Members discussed the cost and safety implications of these decisions and examined the level of NASA's insight and thus, its ability to evaluate technical and safety requirements.

Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) said, "NASA now seeks to use government funds to stimulate aerospace companies to develop multiple, competing human spaceflight systems - systems for which NASA may be the only customer. How and when will we know the safety of these new systems?" Ultimately , before NASA can purchase any transportation services from successful developers, it will have to certify that the systems are capable of performing NASA's missions and are safe enough to carry American and our international partner astronauts to the ISS.

However, Vice Admiral Joseph W. Dyer, USN (Ret.), Chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, expressed significant concerns with NASA's proposed plans. Since the U.S. government will not own the vehicles, the designs, or the intellectual property, NASA cannot exercise the same level of insight it normally has in other technology development efforts. (9/14)

Why Won’t the Political Parties Talk About Space? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The Space Frontier Foundation, a non-partisan organization dedicated to the opening of space to private citizens and industry, slammed both the Democrats and Republicans for their platform positions on space exploration. Executive director Jonathan Card tells us why SFF came away from convention season unimpressed. Click here. (9/14)

NASA's Space Launch System Celebrates a Year of Powering Forward (Source: Space Daily)
NASA is powering ahead toward new destinations in the solar system. This week marks one year of progress since the formation of the Space Launch System (SLS), the nation's next step in human exploration efforts. On Sep. 14, 2011, NASA announced a new capability for America's space program: a heavy-lift rocket designed to carry the Orion spacecraft and send astronauts farther into space than ever before.

And now, one year later, NASA has made swift progress improving on existing hardware, testing and developing new components, and paving the way for a new launch vehicle. The SLS will make human exploration of deep space a reality and create new possibilities for scientific discovery. NASA's SLS team began work immediately after the 2011 announcement, finding new methods of creating designs, conducting reviews and improving scheduling and budget planning. (9/14)

Medvedev: Russia's Space Industry Needs Quality Control (Source: Space Daily)
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has proposed to create a quality control system in Russia's space industry. "Quality control is needed at all stages of development, production and exploitation of space equipment", he told the conference that focused on raising the reliability and quality of space manufacturing. Medvedev finds it necessary to set up centers for testing, certifying and checking flight assignments.

The financing of the space industry has increased by 3 times over the past 5 years, and 670 billion roubles (more than 20 billion dollars) will be invested in it in the coming few years. Russia's Prime Minister says that it is necessary to resort to strict discipline in the space industry that was its distinctive feature in the Soviet-era times. Besides, it is necessary to introduce financial liability for spacecraft launch failures. (9/14)

First Planets Found Around Sun-Like Stars in a Cluster (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA-funded astronomers have, for the first time, spotted planets orbiting sun-like stars in a crowded cluster of stars. The findings offer the best evidence yet planets can sprout up in dense stellar environments. Although the newfound planets are not habitable, their skies would be starrier than what we see from Earth. The starry-skied planets are two so-called hot Jupiters, which are massive, gaseous orbs that are boiling hot because they orbit tightly around their parent stars.

Each hot Jupiter circles a different sun-like star in the Beehive Cluster, also called the Praesepe, a collection of roughly 1,000 stars that appear to be swarming around a common center. The Beehive is an open cluster, or a grouping of stars born at about the same time and out of the same giant cloud of material. As such, the stars share a similar chemical composition. Unlike the majority of stars, which spread out shortly after birth, these young stars remain loosely bound together by mutual gravitational attraction. (9/14)

Space Modernization Initiatives Paying Dividends (Source: Aviation Week)
Space industry leaders are welcoming the U.S. Air Force’s initiative to plow back money saved on space architecture policy changes into modernizing and upgrading newly deployed early warning and communications systems. “It’s great to hear” says Mark Valerio, vice president and general manager of Military Space Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

Through the Space Modernization Initiative, Valerio says there is greater potential for continuing innovation, and to prevent the danger of “atrophy” in the company’s design community as programs such as SBIRS (space based infrared system) and GPS III move from development into production. The concept involves money freed up by Air Force initiatives such as increased numbers of segregated and hosted payloads, and leveraging commercial space launch, to augment capabilities of ongoing programs. (9/14)

Elon Musk, the 21st Century Industrialist (Source: Bloomberg)
On Fridays, Elon Musk gathers his engineers in an old hangar in Los Angeles. The building, next to a municipal airport a couple miles south of the Hollywood Park race track and casino, is now an R&D facility for Musk’s electric car company, Tesla Motors (TSLA). Musk uses these meetings to check the team’s progress and give straightforward, often withering, design critiques.

That Musk feels no shame dismissing the efforts of vastly larger competitors would not surprise his friends and colleagues, who describe him as Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, and Howard Hughes rolled into one. “He’s a throwback to when people were doing less incrementalist things,” says Peter Thiel, the tech investor who co-founded PayPal with Musk.

Musk is chief executive officer of Tesla and SpaceX, and is the largest shareholder in all three companies. Following the SolarCity IPO, his net worth could be well north of $3 billion. If they survive, they’ll continue to be improbable and inspiring businesses. Musk’s goals go well beyond cash-flow statements, however. “We don’t have sustainable energy production solved,” he says, “and we are not a multiplanetary species.” (9/14)

Satellite Regulator Rebuffs Iran, Punts on Avanti Dispute (Source: Space News)
International regulators rejected an Iranian appeal to keep rights to an orbital position despite the lack of a satellite and declined to address Luxembourg’s argument that Britain’s Avanti should be refused rights to a slot it already occupies. The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Radio Regulations Board (RRB) refrained, as expected, from intervening in a longstanding dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the one side, and Qatar and France on the other, over rights to frequencies at 25.5-26 degrees east.

In a separate dispute, Iran has been trying since early this year to find a satellite in orbit that it could lease or buy and move into an Iranian slot at 34 degrees east. With a satellite there, Iran could claim it had secured its rights to the position. International regulators had given Iran until July 14 to put a satellite into position and start broadcasting in the assigned frequencies.

Iran had told the RRB that it had recently found a satellite. It declined to identify the satellite or its owner, but said that if the RRB requested, it would disclose this information. But as the meeting was about to start on Sept. 10, Iran submitted a fresh document saying it could not furnish the material. (9/14)

Morpheus Team Building New Prototype After Florida Crash (Source: Space.com)
The NASA JSC team behind a prototype moon lander that crashed in a test flight at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport last month is pushing forward to build a new-and-improved replacement. The program, called Project Morpheus after the Greek god of dreams, is aimed at testing new technologies for a future planetary lander, including a novel propulsion system based on liquid oxygen and liquid methane fuels, which scientists say are cheaper and safer than traditional rocket fuels.

A future version of Morpheus could be used to land payloads on the moon, Mars, or some other planetary body. Prior to the Florida crash, the SUV-size lander had made it through 26 previous tests, though these had all been conducted with tethers attached to the vehicle for safety. (9/14)

Boeing, NASA Establish CST-100 Baseline Configuration (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Boeing and NASA recently established the firm baseline configuration for the company’s Commercial Crew Transportation System, achieving the first performance milestone in NASA’s Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. During the Integrated Systems Review, Boeing’s approaches to the spacecraft, launch system and ground operations were evaluated for compliance with NASA’s requirements, including safety and mission assurance, avionics and software, International Space Station (ISS) integration, and crew and mission operations. (9/14)

How India Avoided Possible Disaster of PSLV-C21 Space Mission (Source: Economic Times)
As India basks in the glory of its 100th space mission, a closed group of space scientists are analyzing a different, untold, success—-of how they avoided a disaster of PSLV-C21 on Sunday morning. There were at least six "considerably big" pieces of space debris that posed a danger to the satellites, had the rocket been launched at the designated time of 9:51 a.m. By delaying the liftoff by two minutes, they evaded the debris.

The Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), an international body in which India is a member, has catalogued some 20,000 space debris objects including spent rocket parts in low-earth orbits, posing a risk to space missions. On Saturday morning, about 30 hours after the countdown had started, an update showed the probability of the mission encountering debris. At 11:30 a.m., senior scientists including ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan, mission director P Kunhikrishnan and space debris specialist V Adimurthy met to take stock of the situation.

"There were quite a few pieces of debris that could probably come in our way," Adimurthy told TOI on Monday. "Launching the vehicle at 9:51 a.m. didn't look very safe, as there were two pieces of debris weighing 15kg to 150kg, which had a high probability of colliding with the satellites at the injection stage. We decided to delay the launch, so the debris could pass." The question was how much to delay. They had a 15-minute launch window; and the earlier the launch the better. (9/14)

Virginia Suborbital Launch Postponed (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
The launch of a Terrier-Lynx suborbital rocket scheduled Saturday for the U.S. Department of Defense from NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia was postponed Thursday. A new launch date has not been determined. The next launch from the Wallops Flight Facility is a NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket scheduled Friday, Sep. 21. The rocket launch, postponed previously from August, will be carrying the RockSat-X educational payload. This will be followed Saturday, Sep. 22, with a test flight of a NASA Talos-Terrier-Oriole suborbital sounding rocket. (9/14)

New Mexico Missile Test Launch Causes Stir (Source: Space.com)
A spectacular U.S. Army missile test in New Mexico Thursday lit up the predawn sky over the southwestern U.S., triggering a flood of UFO reports and hundreds of calls to military officials from as far away as Denver and Los Angeles. The amazing night sky sight was created by the launch of an Army Juno missile early Thursday from Fort Wingate in New Mexico, which soared high into the atmosphere on its way to the White Sands Missile Range to be intercepted by a Patriot missile. The Juno rocket flew so high that its long contrail reflected sunlight from the yet-to-rise sun, sparking a dazzling night sky light show. (9/14)

For-Profit Earth-Observing Firms Brace for Flood of Free Data (Source: Space News)
Operators of three small commercial Earth observation satellite systems said they expect a negative impact on their business from the coming flood of free data from U.S. Landsat and future European Sentinel satellites, but that they are confident they can adapt to preserve their businesses.

Owners of the five-satellite RapidEye, the five- or six-satellite DMC International Imaging, and one-satellite Deimos all will feel the effects of U.S. and European government policies that provide Landsat and Sentinel low- and medium-resolution satellite imagery free of charge as a way to stimulate value-added markets. All three companies are focusing on differentiating their products to provide customers with value beyond the raw imagery coming off the free-access systems. (9/14)

Millions of People May Become Astronauts (Source: USA Today)
An adventure vacation will mean blasting off for a cruise in low-Earth orbit, and flights from New York to Sydney will take about two hours. British entrepreneur and adventurer Richard Branson -- who, in the past three decades, launched airlines and who plans to launch spaceships soon -- predicts flights such as these reflect the next breakthrough in air travel. In the next 30 years, he says, spaceflight will be nearly as common for travelers as taking a plane trip became for millions across the world in the past 30 years. (9/14)

Astrium Wins DEOS Contract to Demonstrate In-Orbit Servicing (Source: Astrium)
Astrium is preparing a new technology mission for the maintenance and disposal of satellites. The DLR Space Administration announced that Astrium Friedrichshafen will be the prime contractor for the definition phase of the DEOS (German orbital servicing mission) project. The order is worth a total of around €13 million. The definition phase is the last, decisive step before construction begins on the space vehicles themselves. The DEOS project will for the first time demonstrate technologies for the controlled in-orbit disposal of a defective satellite. (9/14)

Squyres Warns Congress of Threats to Mars Program (Source: Cornell Daily Sun)
Steve Squyres told a Senate committee on Wednesday that U.S. space exploration programs risk significant delays and setbacks because they are severely underfunded. Despite the importance of the issue, only two senators attended the hearing. Squyres testified on Capitol Hill before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Squyres is the chairman of the NASA Advisory Council. While the panel of scientists warned of the grave threat facing the agency’s future, only two senators, Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) attended the hearing.

NASA is facing massive budget cuts, and the future of its planetary science program remains unclear. During his testimony, Squyres argued that the current NASA budget is insufficient to pursue a manned mission to Mars without risking “lengthy” delays. “Without some means to develop or acquire the missing piece – either a deep space habitation module or a lunar lander – a decade from now NASA will be unable to do much more in deep space than duplicate the success of Apollo 8’s historic mission to orbit the Moon, more than half a century later,” Squyres said. (9/14)

A New World at NASA for LGBT Workers (Source: The Advocate)
Since the announcement of Sally Ride’s death July 23 made it clear she was not only the first woman in space but also the first lesbian, there has been much discussion as to why she never came out publicly. Most, including her sister, out lesbian Bear Ride, have ascribed it to her private nature, but some also acknowledged the space program’s culture would have been less than friendly to openly LGBT people in the 1980s.

But things change. NASA now has an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, and some of its locations have LGBT employee groups. While the atmosphere varies from one location to another, “NASA is very supportive,” says Steve Riley, chairman of the Out & Allied Employee Resource Group at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “I’m sure, back in Sally’s day, it was nowhere near that supportive,” Riley says. His group has only been officially recognized for a year, but management’s been encouraging and even active in the formation of the group. (9/14)

Successful Re-Entry of Japan's ISS Cargo Transfer Vehicle (Source: JAXA)
The H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI3" (HTV3) successfully re-entered the atmosphere after the third de-orbit maneuver at 2:00 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). The "KOUNOTORI3" has successfully accomplished the main objective of shipping cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and completed its 56-day mission. (9/14)

New Insurance Underwriting Agency Teams with Space Florida for Space Risks (Source: Sacramento Bee)
Assure Space, LLC, a new space insurance agency for satellite risks, is excited to partner with Auster Capital Partners ("ACP") and Space Florida for the provision of launch and in-orbit insurance to satellite operators worldwide. Assure Space has agreements with participating insurers that grant it authority to act as their intermediary and perform a range of responsibilities on their behalf. These include identifying and evaluating world-wide space insurance opportunities and underwriting insurance commitments.

"History has shown that growth of commercial space industry goes hand in hand with growth of the space insurance industry," said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. "We believe that offering cost effective insurance will help bring a share of commercial launch business back to the U.S." (9/14)

European Industry Develops Space Safety Radar (Source: ESA)
ESA will boost European industrial expertise by developing a new radar as part of the Agency’s Space Situational Awareness program. The radar will test future debris monitoring techniques, helping European satellite operators avoid space hazards and increase safety in Earth orbit. ESA and France’s ONERA research center have signed a €4 million contract that will see the French organization and five industrial partners in France, Spain and Switzerland design a test surveillance radar and develop a demonstrator model. Work begins this month. (9/14)

Secret US Spy Satellite Launches Into Space After 6-Week Delay (Source: Space.com)
A secret U.S. spy satellite launched into space atop a 19-story rocket Thursday (Sep. 13), ending a six-week delay for the latest clandestine space mission by the National Reconnaissance Office. An Atlas 5 rocket launched the new NROL-36 satellite and 11 tiny research satellites into orbit from a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket lifted off at 2:39 p.m. PDT following weeks of delay due to launch range issues. (9/13)

Space Florida Approves Funds to Work KSC Sites (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida’s board on Wednesday approved funding to modernize a former shuttle hangar for use by The Boeing Co. and for work that could lead to the acquisition of the shuttle runway and other Kennedy Space Center property to support commercial space operations. "We have several specific sites in mind that we want to pursue, one of which I don’t mind commenting on, is the Shuttle Landing Facility,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello.

Under a unanimously approved resolution, up to $2.3 million could be spent to perform environmental reviews, land surveys, title searches and other activity that DiBello said could expedite or encourage the transfer of U.S. government property to the state to advance commercial space opportunities. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the head of Space Florida’s board, said such work would increase the state’s flexibility to attract new commercial business, as it did when it acquired a shuttle hangar, Orbiter Processing Facility-3, where Boeing plans to assemble a private space capsule.

The board had previously approved $5 million to demolish old infrastructure inside the hangar, work that has just begun. On Wednesday, it approved another $5 million for the project’s second modernization phase. The funding comes from the Florida Department of Transportation’s budget for space-related infrastructure improvements. Explaining the benefit of the $2.3 million for environmental and other surveys, Carroll said it might help, for example, a company seeking a launch pad exclusively for commercial missions that would not be delayed by military and other government launches. (9/14)

Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft Passes Preliminary Design Review (Source: Flight Global)
Stratolaunch has finished the preliminary design review (PDR) of its space launch system, which it claims will be the largest aircraft ever built. "The carrier aircraft conducted their preliminary design review on [27-28 August] in Mojave, California," says the company. "The team is currently reviewing the data package and presentation." The aircraft will be used to haul large SpaceX-built rockets up to 9,140m (30,000ft) before air-launching them, allowing the rocket to carry payloads with greater efficiency than traditional, vertical-take-off rockets. (9/14)

Sanchez: Texas Offering $6M, Florida Giving $10M for SpaceX Launch Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Officials involved in discussions with SpaceX said Thursday that it’s premature to put a dollar sign on the incentives package that would be offered to the company to persuade it to build a rocket-launching facility near Brownsville. “We are still working with the local community to aggressively pursue SpaceX and (are) very much interested in trying to get them to come to Texas,” Lucy Nashed, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday.

This was in response to statements from Cameron County Pct. 4 Commissioner Dan Sanchez that the Brownsville Economic Development Council and the state have fallen behind Florida in incentives offered Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Sanchez said at Thursday’s Commissioners Court meeting that the BEDC and the state are offering SpaceX $3 million each for a total of $6 million in efforts to attract the business to Cameron County. He said Florida is offering $10 million.

According to some local reports, a site in Georgia is also in the mix now. He continued: “I tend to agree that the overall dollars may not be the deciding factor, but in terms of logistics, geography and location, we have the best overall package.” From the governor’s office, Nashed said that negotiations are conducted “on so many fronts (other) than just cash amounts. We are still negotiating and still hopeful that they will pick Texas.” (9/14)

KSC Shuttle Landing Strip to Become Commercial Spaceport? (Source: CFnews13)
As the Kennedy Space Center prepares to bid farewell to space shuttle Endeavour next week, NASA administrators are looking ahead to the future, including turning over the Shuttle Landing Facility to a commercial entity. Now that there are no space shuttles lifting off from or touching down at the Space Coast, what's to become of the 15,000-foot-long runway?

It may be deserted now, but the KSC wants it to be a part of a thriving multi-use spaceport -- as a horizontal launch and landing facility, among other things. Executives with the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority said they plan to bid for the landing facility. They said taking it over will help with their goal to make the Space Coast Regional Airport a Spaceport. Applications to take over the Shuttle Landing Facility are due by Monday, Sept. 24. Space Center administrators will make a decision within the next year. (9/14)

Poland Takes Key Step Toward Full ESA Membership (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Poland took a step further in its relations with ESA by exchanging Accession Agreements on the ESA Convention on 13 September 2012, to become the 20th ESA Member State. The ceremony took place at the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw, with the participation of Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, Waldemar Pawlak, Polish Minister of Economy, and Gra┼╝yna Henclewska, Under Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Economy. (9/14)

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