September 19, 2012

Aldrin Encourages Mars Exploration (Source: WIFR) 
"Now is the time to take the other habitable planet in our solar system and to begin to establish a growing pertinance," Buzz Aldrin says. That planet, is Mars. Aldrin thinks by the 50th anniversary of the 1969 landing on the moon, the U.S. should announce plans to build a settlement on the Red Planet by the year 2035. 

"We don't want to be like dinsaurs and have our human race without another location to carry on. In a sense, it's insurance for the survival of the human race."' Aldrin say our nation needs to strengthen our science, technology, engineering and math skills so we could again become a leader in space exploration. "We had been declining in our position in the world, and for me that's unacceptable," he says. (9/19)  

Branson 'Determined to Send People to Mars' (Source: CBS) 
Virgin Airlines CEO, Richard Branson has revolutionized the travel industry but the billionaire entrepreneur already has his sights sets on virgin territory. As the U.S. government closes its shuttle operation, Branson's Virgin Galactic is preparing to offer commercial space flights at $200,000 for a two-hour flight, likely in the next year. His plan? To make space flight as common as taking a plane. 

"It's going to be absolutely incredible because finally people ... ordinary people will be able to have a chance to become astronauts, go into space," he said. But Branson isn't just set on visiting space for hours at a time. "In my lifetime, I'm determined to being a part of starting a population on Mars," he said," before adding "I think it is absolutely realistic. It will happen." (9/19)  

China Has No Timetable for Manned Moon Landing (Source: Xinhua) 
A senior scientist working on China's lunar orbiter project said Wednesday that China has not yet created a timetable for its manned moon landing program. "Putting a man on the moon involves a very complicated systematic program with many technical challenges to solve, including those related to conducting space walks, docking, staying on the moon and returning," Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for the lunar orbiter project, said. 

"China won't carry out a manned moon landing until it masters all of these crucial technologies," said Ouyang, who is also an academician with the Chinese Academy of Science. Ouyang said China's lunar probe projects currently consist of unmanned moon exploration, a manned moon landing and the building of a moon base. "China is currently in the first stage," Ouyang said, adding that the first stage involves the orbit, landing and return of lunar spacecraft. (9/19)  

NASA Keeps Plugging Away In An Election Year (Source: Aviation Week) 
In the U.S., space exploration and just about everything else but the meat-and-potatoes issues of war, peace and the economy have been relegated to the back burner while the quadrennial flamefest known as the presidential election plays out on the national stage. Democrats and Republicans have space planks in their policy platforms, but they are not exactly front and center in what passes for debate in the fog of sound bites and tweets. 

Over at NASA, the political appointees are overseeing the agency's message—-under close oversight from their own White House masters—-to ensure nothing embarrassing emerges from the civil-space sector before voters go to the polls in November. With the Mars Science Laboratory safely on the surface, the agency's top managers released another $8.5 billion to fund the spectacular work of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for five more years. Otherwise, it is a quiet time at headquarters. (9/19)  

China Anticipates Greater Involvement in Astronomy, Space (Source: China Daily) 
"I have no doubt China will make substantial financial investments both in the space program and putting facilities in Antarctica," said Professor Sun Kwok. "China is moving full steam ahead. China wants to be a major partner in the world scene of astronomy and the simple fact that Vice-President Xi was at the assembly is a great indication that this is a matter of national priority... He indicated in his speech that China considers this (field) to be important and has every intention to invest more to participate more," said Kwok. 

"Personally, I am interested in international collaboration. I want China to participate more because in the past it has been a primarily American and European affair." With global interest in space exploration currently at its highest level in years as the NASA rover Curiosity beams extraordinary images from the surface of Mars, there have been few better times to be involved in the field of astronomy. (9/19)  

Picosatellites: Personal Space (Source: Economist) 
Many a youngster has dreamed of going into space. But becoming an astronaut is a hard slog. Sandy Antunes suggests a less daunting proxy. An astrophysicist and programmer with decades of NASA experience, Dr Antunes is a proponent of picosatellites, and has just published the second of four books on "do-it-yourself" satellites. These tiny birds weigh around a kilogram and are shot up in lieu of ballast or in empty nooks and crannies on full-blown satellite launch missions. They are becoming so popular that 2013 may see the first dedicated launches. 

This popularity owes much to two unrelated trends: the "maker" movement in electronics and the rise of smartphones. The maker movement brings open-source fervour to hardware, and in particular to devices other than computers, such as instruments and robots, often using the Arduino platform. This reduces the expertise needed to create circuit board and program a functional system, whether it is terrestrial or winds up in orbit. 

On the other end of the complexity spectrum, smartphone makers' insistence on the tiniest and cheapest cameras, miniaturized sensors (like accelerometers and barometers) and specialized chips has made instruments suitable for picosatellite use as well, where size, power drain and weight are critically important. (In America, a firm needs a license to put a camera in orbit, but that is the only significant regulatory hurdle.) Click here. (9/19)  

Bolden: Criticism of NASA’s Direction ‘Undermines Nation’s Goals at Critical Time’ (Source: Houston Chronicle) 
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden dismissed rumors that the future of U.S. space exploration is in jeopardy and rejected speculation that his agency has no plans for future human spaceflight. “Those who perpetuate that myth only hurt the space program,” Bolden said. “Such talk undermines our nation’s goals at a very critical time,” he said. “The truth is we have an ambitious series of deep space destinations we plan to explore and we are hard at work exploring the hardware and the technologies to get us there.” 

Though he is still waiting for Congress to adopt a budget for 2013, Bolden said NASA is in “relatively good shape” financially, crediting the discontinuation of the space shuttle program, which he said cost the administration $2 billion just to maintain. NASA’s requested budget for FY2013 comes to a little more than $17.71 billion, a decrease of about $60 million from this 2012 estimated budget. The biggest decrease in the requested budget is in the space operations section, accounting for a $173.8 million cut, thanks to nearly $500 million being shaved off from this year’s space shuttle budget. 

The future of NASA’s budget remains a question heading into potentially a new presidential administration. Bolden said he has not given much thought to the idea of a Mitt Romney White House, saying that he “loves” and “admires” President Barack Obama, who in 2009 chose Bolden to be NASA’s 12th administrator. Texas Republicans have been critical of the Obama’s space flight priorities and complain that he has tilted toward Florida, a swing state in presidential election, at the expense of heavily Republican Texas. (9/19)  

Aerospace Merger Faces Political Hurdles (Source: Wall Street Journal) 
Even before executives negotiating the megamerger of Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. and Britain's BAE Systems try to win over wary investors, they face the delicate challenge of pleasing five governments in four languages with dozens of conflicting interests. EADS, which is based in France and Germany and has substantial operations in Spain and Britain, is in advanced talks with BAE to create the world's largest aerospace and defense company by sales and market value. 

A formal presentation of the complex linkup to investors is days or weeks away, people close to the talks say. For now, managers of the two European giants and their advisers are lobbying officials in the four capitals and Washington, D.C., where BAE's lucrative U.S. operation is based. The companies have until Oct. 10 to announce their proposed terms but can extend that deadline. (9/18)  

Boeing Executive Urges U.S. Investment in Aerospace Technology (Source: Air Transport World) 
In an address in Washington during National Aerospace Week, Boeing Executive Vice President Jim Albaugh called for the U.S. to be the global leader in the second century of flight by investing in research and development for aerospace technologies. "Wherever R&D goes, innovation and economic growth follow. Studies have shown that more than half the growth of America's GDP is due to technological innovation. Yet U.S. government R&D as a percentage of our GDP has fallen by 60% since 1964," he said. (9/18)  

Another Atlas 5 Readied to Launch Military Mini Shuttle (Source: United Launch Alliance's Atlas-Centaur rocket has been put together for deploying the Air Force's third Orbital Test Vehicle flight, a mission that will demonstrate the reusability of the X-37B spaceplane when it blasts off Oct. 25. The bronze first stage of the vehicle was erected atop the mobile launch platform inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral on Thursday, Sep. 13. 

After setting the interstage adapter hardware in place, the Centaur upper stage was hoisted high into the assembly building on Saturday, Sep. 15. The upcoming spaceflight will be the second for this particular X-37B vehicle, which spent 224 days, 9 hours and 24 minutes aloft between April and December 2010 on the inaugural OTV shakedown cruise. (9/18)  

The New Economy (Source: SpaceKSC) 
In the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, many find it hard to look up. They won't even look at the horizon. They look down at their feet, perhaps blaming themselves or blaming others. How can they look up, how can they look to the horizon, when they've lost their home and can't find a job? When their skill set is obsolete? When they can no longer earn an income at the level they once enjoyed? Asking those with such immediate needs to look up might seem harsh, even insensitive. But I believe that better times are almost here. 

In the 1960s, an entire generation was witness to one of the greatest feats in human history. For the first time, humans left the Earth to walk on another world. Looking back through their own eyes, many in that generation forget why Americans went to the Moon. And they forget that over half of their fellow Americans thought the Moon program was a waste of money. That generation now leads in Congress. It has spent almost ten years trying to recreate Apollo. 

The supporters of these programs invariably claim that spending billions on a heavy-lift rocket will "inspire" future generations without explaining how. I've yet to run into anyone who's told me that SLS, or Constellation before it, has "inspired" them, whatever that word is supposed to mean. I'm inspired — not by the latest Congressional black hole for taxpayer dollars, but by the new industrial revolution taking place in the American economy. Private sector investors are creating new space vehicles that by the end of this decade will make access to Low Earth Orbit all but routine. (9/19)  

SpaceX Q&A Provides Details on Florida Operations (Source: Aviation Week) 
Q: When do you plan to complete work on modifications to the launch site at the Cape? A: The major upgrades are, well, we'll be building a heavy [lift launch vehicle] site there and we are upgrading the launch platform to accommodate the new version of the Falcon 9. So it's more tankage, probably more pumps. We're always innovating to increase our rapidity, our pace of launch as well. 

Q: What about your new payload processing facility there -- are you going to put Astrotech out of business? A: I don't have any intention of putting anyone -- well, I don't have any intention of putting Astrotech out of business. They have a loyal following, we just want to make sure we can offer a service for our customers. We are building a facility that can launch our commitments and provide the fueling. They've got more chambers, more spaces than I have, so I don't want to say they're comparable. (9/17)

Clarifying the Difference Between Falcon-9 and the Upgraded Falcon-9 (Source: Aviation Week)
Q: As a percentage, how much difference is there between Falcon 9 and Falcon 9 v.1.1? A: [Aside from the change in engine placement and larger fairing,] it's the same tank architecture, it's the same fundamental process on the interstage, I believe it's the same evolved subsystem. The engines are largely the same. Even though its more thrust, the chamber geometry is the same...the difference is instead of plating it, we're brazing on jackets. The nozzle is different. We use a tube wall nozzle on the [Merlin] 1C and we're using the milled copper for the nozzle extension. It's a much higher thrust engine but surprisingly a lot of the infrastructure of that engine is the same. (9/17)  

Lawmakers Question NASA Commercial Crew Safety Standards (Source: Aviation Week) 
NASA’s plan to human-rate commercial crew vehicles in parallel with their private development using federal seed money may not produce safety levels acceptable for U.S. and U.S.-partner astronauts, members of a key House panel worried Sep. 14. Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier outlined plans to start certifying commercial vehicles next February under a “hybrid” process designed to insert some of the rigor of standard Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) procurement into the Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency is using to help fund commercial vehicle development. 

But Joseph Dyer, chairman of the independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, cautioned that the parallel development and certification is a “workaround” that may not produce the desired results, particularly as uncertain budgets generate downward pressure on safety spending. “It’s not yet clear to us how waivers and deviations will be approved, who is accountable, and how the process shall be administered,” said Dyer. (9/18)  

US Scientists to Use Chinese Moon Lander for Space Research (Source: 
A cooperative deal has been inked between a U.S. group and China to use that country's moon lander to conduct astronomical imaging from the lunar surface. The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) of Kamuela, Hawaii has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Beijing-based National Astronomical Observatories (NAOC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. A signing ceremony took place in Kamuela on Sept. 4. The deal is the first such U.S.-China collaboration centered on using China's Chang'e-3 moon lander now being readied for launch next year. (9/19)  

Keeping Focused on Commercial Crew (Source: Space Review) 
Even as NASA's commercial crew effort enters its latest phase, attention, both positive and negative, remains focused on the program. Jeff Foust reports on the latest developments with both the companies that won the latest commercial crew awards and the company that didn't, as well as continuing Congressional concerns about the program. Visit to view the article. (9/18)  

India Aborts a Human Moon Mission (Source: Space Review) 
A few years ago India announced some very ambitious human spaceflight plans, including a goal of human lunar mission. Ajey Lele examines what happened to those plans and whether it's worth it for India to pursue them again. Visit to view the article. (9/18)

Hispasat Picks Arianespace to Launch Two Satellites (Source: Space Daily) 
Spanish operator Hispasat has once again chosen launch services company Arianespace, this time for its two satellites Amazonas-4A and Hispasat AG1. They will be the 8th and 9th satellites from the Hispasat group to be launched by Arianespace. The launching of these new satellites implies a new advancement in the growth and expansion of the Spanish operator. (9/19)  

Untested Rocket Boosts SpaceX Revenue Nearly $1 Billion (Source: Aviation Week) 
Commercial space launch cognoscenti estimate that, since 2009, nearly a billion dollars in new orders has gone to a single U.S. company developing a rocket that has yet to be flown. The catch: while it is common in the commercial aviation world to get a backlog of orders for platforms that have yet to fly, it is unheard of in the space launch industry. 

Over the past two years, SpaceX has proved its Falcon 9 medium-lift rocket can deliver unmanned payloads to low Earth orbit on at least two occasions. But a major modification to that launch vehicle is under way, including a new Merlin engine, stretched fuel tanks and a wider payload fairing. In other words, while the name is mostly the same, the actual Falcon 9 variant that SpaceX has scheduled to begin carrying telecom satellites to geostationary orbit by mid-2013 is still only in development and not expected to undergo flight trials until the second quarter of next year. 

“If my estimate is correct, it's close to a billion dollars of business that SpaceX has acquired in the commercial launch market—-both the LEO system and the GEO system—-without really a flight record,” says Frank McKenna of ILS, which manages commercial launches on Russian-built Proton rockets. “It's probably a first in the commercial launch industry,” he said. Given SpaceX's advertised price of around $59 million per launch, McKenna says the rest of industry has lost about 40% of new orders it might have reaped if SpaceX was not in the game. (9/17)  

Russian Delay Sets Up SpaceX Cargo Shot (Source: Florida Today) 
Launch of the next crew to the International Space Station is being delayed about a week so specialists can replace a part on a Soyuz spacecraft. U.S. astronaut Kevin Ford and two Russian cosmonauts — Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin — had been slated to blast off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 15. The faulty descent stage part will be removed and replaced. The spare will be tested. After that work is complete, a new launch date will be set. 

The delay will clear the way for SpaceX to proceed with plans to launch its first commercial resupply mission to the station as scheduled. That flight is expected to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station around Oct. 9 or Oct. 10. The mission will be the first of 12 the company plans to launch to the station under a $1.6 billion NASA contract. (9/17)  

Orbital Agrees to 10 Antares Launches from Virginia (Source: Virginian-Pilot) 
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has reached an agreement with Orbital Sciences Corp. on plans to launch rockets from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the agreement. Virginia partnered with the company in 2008 to make improvements to the spaceport that are expected to be completed later this month. The new agreement states that Orbital will launch 10 flights from the facility, including eight resupply missions to the International Space Station. Virginia will pay to complete additional improvements at the spaceport to support the missions. (9/18)  

Arianespace Delays Sep. 21 Launch (Source: Arianespace) 
In order to perform additional checks on the Ariane 5 ECA launch system, Arianespace has decided to postpone the launch VA 209, initially slated on Friday 21 September 21, for a few days. A new launch date will be announced shortly. (9/18)  

NASA Funds 'Thor's Hammer' Idea for Tossing Satellites (Source: 
Humans can only dream of having the power of Thor, the Norse-inspired superhero who can whirl and throw his hammer at blinding speeds. A NASA-funded plan envisions rockets using a similar idea to hurl tiny satellites toward other planets. The "NanoTHOR" project aims to connect small satellites with upper rocket stages by using miles-long tethers, so that the rocket stages can spin the satellites around like Thor's hammer. NASA awarded the idea $100,000 from its Innovative Advanced Concepts program to begin running computer simulations and figure out a hardware design. 

"Using a few tricks, we could get that system spinning so the rocket upper stage could swing the nanosatellite out of Earth's orbit and on to the moon or an interplanetary trajectory," said Robert Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist of Tethers Unlimited Inc. Tethers Unlimited hopes to make CubeSats even more capable by turning them into interplanetary explorers. Such tiny satellites don't carry their own fuel and rocket motors to escape from Earth's orbit, but the tether plan would bypass the problem by using leftover propellant and momentum from upper rocket stages. (9/18)  

China's Long March Boosts Pair of Chinese Navigation Satellites (Source: 
Two satellites for China's Beidou navigation system lifted off on top of a Long March rocket Tuesday, adding new spacecraft to the growing network to provide more accurate positioning services to military and civil users. The satellites launched on a Long March 3B rocket at 3:10 p.m. EDT from the Xichang spaceport, a facility in Sichuan province in southwest China. (9/18)  

Globalstar, Arianespace Resolve Payment Dispute (Source: Space News) 
Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar and launch services provider Arianespace have settled their dispute over how much Globalstar owes to cover launch-cost overruns due to satellite delays, Globalstar said Sept. 18. Pending payment of the now agreed-to amount by Globalstar — the statement did not disclose the figure — Arianespace is expected to proceed with the launch of the fourth and final group of six second-generation Globalstar satellites in early 2013, Globalstar said. (9/18) 

Largest Moon Rock Ever Auctioned Could Fetch $380,000 (Source: 
If you have some serious cash lying around, a chunk of the moon could be yours. A piece of lunar meteorite is on sale at auction, and experts estimate the final price will tally at least $340,000. The rock, called Dar al Gani 1058, is the largest piece of the moon ever to be auctioned, according to Heritage Auctions, which is handling the sale. The 4-pound (1815 grams) meteorite is also the fourth-largest chunk of the moon available to the public, since the moon rocks collected by Apollo astronauts were never put up for sale. (9/18)  

California Locals Upset Over Tree Removal for Endeavour Arrival (Source: ATVN) 
Nearly 300 trees will be cut down by for the transportation of space ship Endeavour. The president of the California Science Museum said that over 700 trees will be planted to replace those which are cut down. Yet some residents spoke-out about the environmental effects. CSC President Jeffery Rudolph told the Board of Public works that the center has taken measures to cause the least amount of environmental damage. He said the route which was chosen would eliminate the least amount of trees. (9/18)  

NASA Head Bolden: Warp Speed Ahead (Source: US News) 
Former astronaut and NASA head Charles Bolden says the agency wants to one day design a vehicle that goes faster than the speed of light. "One of these days, we want to get to warp speed," he told a group at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Bolden was discussing the future of American space exploration. "We want to go faster than the speed of light, and we don't want to stop at Mars." 

Devising a ship that goes faster than the speed of light—once confined to the realms of Star Wars and Star Trek—is quickly becoming a goal scientists around the world are setting their sights on. Monday, Harold White, a scientist with NASA's Johnson Space Center, discussed a theory that would allow a spaceship to travel through the space-time continuum at speeds of up to 10 times the speed of light. White told that his findings "change [traveling at warp speed] from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation." (9/18)  

NASA Probes Record Sounds Of Space (Source: NPR) Twin spacecraft recently began orbiting the earth, and the probes have been sending back strangely beautiful recordings of the sounds of space. Scientists call it the chorus. The sounds come from the magnetosphere, an area where charged particles from the sun interact with the earth's magnetic field. Click here. (9/18)  

Probe Points to Different Origin for Mercury (Source: CNN) X-ray data from NASA's MESSENGER probe points to high levels of magnesium and sulfur on the surface of the planet Mercury, suggesting its makeup is far different from that of other planets, scientists say. The unmanned orbiter has been beaming back data from the first planet for a year and a half. Readings from its X-ray spectrometer point to a planet whose northern volcanic plains formed through upwellings of rocks more exotic than those often found on the Earth, the Moon or Mars, said Shoshana Weider, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. 

"Before this MESSENGER mission, a lot of people assumed it was very like the Moon -- it's dark, it's grey," Weider said. But while the Moon's surface formed when light materials floated to the top of an ocean of molten rock, the low level of calcium on Mercury indicates that didn't happen there. "This gives us clues to the kind of precursor materials that accreted to form Mercury, in an extremely oxygen-poor environment," Weider said. (9/18)  

Posey and Colleaugues Plan Bill Aimed at Space Leadership (Source: America Space) 
On Thursday, Representatives John Culberson (R-TX), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Bill Posey (R-FL) and Pete Olson (R-TX) will announce the Space Leadership Act, a bill that seeks to ensure America’s preeminence in space leadership by creating long-term stability in the nation’s space program. The Space Leadership Act is focused on enacting important management reforms to build a more stable and more accountable space program. One of the key goals is to make NASA whipsaw less to the political winds than has been the case in the last 3 years. 

Some will claim that this is just another shot at space policy. Unlike some previous space policy efforts where Congress was kept in the dark, the ideas behind the Leadership Act came about from members of Congress, who want to see a stronger, rather than weaker, space agency, and The National Academies Space Studies Board during the course of several hearings. (9/17)  

What Is the Smallest Thing in the Universe? (Source: The answer to the enduring question of the smallest thing in the universe has evolved along with humanity. People once thought grains of sand were the building blocks of what we see around us. Then the atom was discovered, and it was thought indivisible, until it was split to reveal protons, neutrons and electrons inside. These too, seemed like fundamental particles, before scientists discovered that protons and neutrons are made of three quarks each. 

"This time we haven't been able to see any evidence at all that there's anything inside quarks," said physicist Andy Parker. "Have we reached the most fundamental layer of matter?" And even if quarks and electrons are indivisible, Parker said, scientists don't know if they are the smallest bits of matter in existence, or if the universe contains objects that are even more minute. (9/18)

Indian in Space: Failure to Launch (Source: Deccan Chronicle) 
No spaceman for India. It’s official. No Indian astronaut will rocket into space for the next five years! India’s plans to put a second native son into space, the first from an indigenously made Indian space rocket in the next five years, have fizzled out. Dr K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) admitted as much here on Monday, when he said that “at this point in time, it would be difficult to set a time-frame for an Indian’s flight into space.” (9/18)  

SES Moves Satellite To Help Thaicom Secure Orbital Slot (Source: Space News) 
Satellite fleet operator SES has moved its 15-year-old NSS-5 satellite to 50.5 degrees east as part of a broader cooperation effort it plans with Thai satellite operator Thaicom, SES Chief Executive Romain Bausch said. NSS-5, which carries a C- and Ku-band payload, had been operated at 20 degrees west in geostationary orbit until July, when it began a slow drift to the Thai-registered slot. It arrived there in early September. (9/18)  

Poland Tripling Space Spending in Bid To Boost Economy (Source: Space News) 
The Polish government plans to more than triple its spending on European Commission-led space programs in the coming years as it attempts to use technology investment to spur its economy, according to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ohe same day that Poland signed an accession agreement that will make it the 20th member of the European Space Agency (ESA) — the ministry said it expects to spend 495 million euros ($619 million) in the European Commission’s space effort planned between 2014 and 2020. (9/18)

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