September 20, 2012

Reps. Culberson, Wolf, Posey and Olson Introduce the Space Leadership Act (Source: SpaceRef) 
Six members of Congress have introduced a bill to revamp the leadership structure within the U.S. space program. Reps. John Culberson, Frank Wolf, Bill Posey, Pete Olson, James Sensenbrenner and Lamar Smith introduced the Space Leadership Preservation Act. The bill would create a 10-year term for the NASA Administrator to provide stability of the leadership structure at NASA so that decisions are made based on science and are removed from the politics of changing administrations. 

The last 30 years have been marked by canceled programs due to cost-overruns, mismanagement or abrupt program changes at the start of each new administration. In the past 20 years alone, 27 programs have been cancelled resulting in over $20 billion wasted on uncompleted programs. This legislation establishes a new Board of Directors to provide a quadrennial review of space programs and a vision for space exploration that will set a tone for NASA's endeavors to ensure American preeminence in the space industry. 

"NASA has suffered from a lack of continuity and long-term vision," said Rep. Posey, Representative of Cape Canaveral, Florida. "Our bill fixes NASA's systemic problem and enables NASA to operate beyond short-term political agendas. It adds accountability to the agency, and puts an end to the abrupt terminations that have wasted too many limited dollars. The ability to commit to longer term projects will provide stability, which benefits our national space program, our national security, and will build the stable workforce that is needed to maintain U.S. Space leadership." (9/20) 

Dawn Sees Hydrated Minerals on Asteroid Vesta (Source: SpaceRef) 
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has revealed the giant asteroid Vesta has its own version of ring around the collar. Two new papers, based on observations from the low-altitude mapping orbit of the Dawn mission, show volatile, or easily evaporated, materials have colored Vesta's surface in a broad swath around its equator. The volatiles were released from minerals likely containing water. Pothole-like features mark some of the asteroid's surface where the volatiles boiled off. Dawn did not find actual water ice at Vesta. However, it found evidence of hydrated minerals delivered by meteorites and dust in the giant asteroid's chemistry and geology. (9/20) 

Harris Corp. Wins Major FAA NextGen Data Services Contract (Sources: SPACErePORT, AIN Online) 
A team led by Florida-based Harris Corp. has won a $331 million FAA NextGen Data Communications Integrated Services contract, beating two other teams led by ITT Exelis and Lockheed Martin. The Harris-led team will provide a data communications network connecting ground and aircraft automation systems, enabling data messaging between pilots and air traffic controllers. The contractor will also administer an $80 million avionics equipage incentive program to supply 1,900 aircraft with the necessary equipment. (9/20)  

China Launches Navigation Satellites Into Orbit (Source: 
Two satellites for China's Beidou navigation system lifted off on top of a Long March rocket Tuesday (Sept. 18), 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 rocketat 1910 GMT (3:10 p.m. EDT) from the Xichang space center, a facility in Sichuan province in southwest China, according to a release from the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the state-owned contractor for Chinese rockets. (9/20)  

Editorial: Space Coast Economy Threatened by Congress, Again (Source: Brevard Times) 
It’s time for Congress to get off the dime and take action on the federal budget. Avoiding sequestration must be a priority to avoid a congressionally induced economic calamity for the Space Coast, Central Florida, and the nation. Last year, with the failure of the so-called Super Committee to agree to $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, Congress decided the only way to cut spending was to put a gun to our head, called sequestration, under the assumption the result would be so unthinkable that surely consensus would be achieved to prevent that debacle. Yet here we are, with a finger on the trigger and Washington doing nothing to avert disaster. 

Doomsday looms in January 2013. We must be vigilant in our quest for a resolution. Congress must place the welfare of the people above politics and make the difficult choices that will keep the economy from ruin. The potential national job loss of millions should consume the U.S. Congress. It must lay politics aside and take action to avert this self-imposed budget cutting exercise that will greatly injure our military readiness and deepen the economic wound. Sequestration is not governing; it is enabling our elected representatives to sidestep leadership at a cost too great to allow. (9/7)  

Lockheed Considers Viability of Resurrected Athena Launcher (Source: Flight Global) 
A decision is expected soon from Lockheed Martin regarding whether to continue to resurrect the Athena program, a small satellite launcher discontinued in 2001. "It's currently in the works, and we would expect a decision probably by the end of the year," says Gregory Kehrl, Lockheed's Athena mission manager. "It's not a very fast process in a company as big as Lockheed. Our portfolio is very broad." 

The series of launch vehicles was conceived, developed and built by Lockheed on internal funding to capture a burgeoning market for small satellites, and particularly for large constellations for satellite internet providers. The collapse of that market, the emergence of strong competition and a catastrophic 1999 launch failure led the company to pull the plug. 

To keep the program sustainable, Lockheed would need two to three launches annually, plus more for the larger, as-yet unbuilt Athena III. At a price point of around $70 million for an Athena II, Lockheed would "like to fly four times [a year], like everybody would in this business, [although] it's probably not fantastically realistic", says Kehrl. "Neither of those products [would] really [be] brought back on strictly a commercial viability basis because, let's face it, everybody knows the launch services business is really not exploding like crazy," he adds, "but there's a steady need for reliable products." (9/20)  

USAF Validates Competitors For Small Launches (Source: Aviation Week) 
The U.S. Air Force has reviewed the candidates for the Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 contract and determined that all bidders will be eligible to compete. The contract will likely be awarded by year-end, which will allow time for winners to compete for Minotaur-class launchers. The latter would also will include options for new entrants into the launch market. 

SpaceX, Lockheed, Orbital Sciences and ATK are all in the mix. ULA, which operates a monopoly in the U.S. on large launchers, is not allowed to bid, as this program is being set aside for new entrants. Potential new entrants, some of which have launch vehicles that are in various stages of development, were required to submit a letter outlining plans for their new vehicle’s readiness along with their bid. The strategy is for the Air Force to allow for these new entrants to assume authority for missions, such as scientific payloads, that can allow for more risk. (9/20)  

Sea Launch Prepares to Launch with Prior Satellite Damage Still a Mystery (Source: Space News) 
Launch services provider Sea Launch AG is preparing to launch Eutelsat and Intelsat satellites in December and January even as it works to unravel the mystery of what caused substantial damage to a Loral-built Intelsat satellite that Sea Launch orbited in May, Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said. 

“There’s got to be something” in the telemetry from the May launch that would indicate why the Intelsat IS-19 satellite separated from the Sea Launch upper stage with severe damage to one of the solar arrays, Karlsen said. “But so far we have gone through all our data and couldn’t find anything that is out of specification.” 

Following an initial Sea Launch investigation that found no rocket-related anomalies, Intelsat agreed to proceed with the mid-August launch of the IS-21 satellite, which was built by Boeing. The launch was a success. Eutelsat is scheduled to launch its Eutelsat 70B telecommunications satellite aboard a Sea Launch rocket for early December, and Sea Launch said Sept. 20 that the Zenit 3SL rocket’s Block DM upper stage arrived at Sea Launch’s home port in Long Beach, California, on Sep. 19. (9/20)  

IndieGoGo Extends Uwingu’s Crowdfunding Campaign, Uwingu Aims to Benefit SETI (Source: Uwingu) 
Leading crowdfunding website IndieGoGo has extended UwinguTM, LLC’s crowdfunding IndieGoGo-hosted campaign to generate launch capital. Uwingu’s campaign, which has raised 77% of its $75,000 objective, will now extend throughout the current week until Sep. 24. “This also gives us another opportunity to help the SETI Allen Telescope Array project, which Uwingu has partnered with to fund if our $75,000 campaign goal is exceeded.” 

Uwingu is a space-themed, for profit start up. Uwingu’s mission is to create a new funding stream for space exploration, research, and education efforts around the world. Through the sale of astronomically themed software applications on internet. Uwingu’s crowdfunding campaign’s purpose is to raise start up funds to launch the first such software application. (9/17)  

President Obama Bobblehead Sent Into Space For Fundraising Effort (Source: Huffington Post) 
President Barack Obama has been sent into space -- or at least a bobbleheaded representative of him has. In this quirky YouTube video created by the masterminds behind the grassroots fundraising campaign Yard Sale for Obama, an Obama bobblehead floats over San Francisco from a balloon before drifting into space. "We released our balloon near the Golden Gate bridge and it made it to about 100,000 feet. It was a scary ride to the top and a dramatic decent... Maybe you have something you can sell and get your friends together." (9/20)  

Indian Think Tank: Space Conduct Code Seen by Some as Western Ploy (Source: Space News) 
The proposed International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities is viewed by many nations as cover for a Western attempt to corral developing countries’ space ambitions, an Indian think tank has concluded. That perception, plus the squabbling between the United States and Europe over the code’s content, could scuttle attempts to promote common standards for space operations. Originally drafted by the European Union (EU), the code, currently undergoing revision, is designed to include all spacefaring nations. 

But the lack of formal consultations on its contents has undermined its credibility, Rajagopalan said during a space policy conference organized by the Secure World Foundation of the United States and France’s IFRI Space Policy Program. The European Union and the U.S. have been discussing the proposed code for more than two years. 

U.S. State and Defense department officials have issued occasionally contradictory statements about the U.S. willingness to adopt the nonbinding code. The State Department earlier this year said the U.S. position is favorable to such a code so long as it does not impinge on U.S. space activities related to national security. (9/19)  

One-Man Space Program (Source: Forbes) 
Elon Musk was born two years after the moon shot. Why a space inspiration? "I never wanted to be an astronaut. I was always interested in technology that would move humanity forward. Not only were we not going to the moon after the 1970s, but we lacked the ability to get there at all. 

At PayPal I remember looking at NASA’s website to see when we were going to Mars. I couldn’t find anything! It could not be the case that the moon was our high-water mark! I didn’t want to have to tell my kids going to the moon was the best we ever did." Click here to read the interview. (9/20)  

Astronaut Visit Results in Blacklisting by Azerbaijan (Source: NASA Watch) 
 Azerbaijani authorities intend to declare persona non grata two foreign nationals who recently visited the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Astronauts Charles Duke and Claude Nicollier were part of a scientific conference "Man and Space", which was held in Stepanakert. The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan does not recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and considers the visit "illegal, inconsistent with Azerbaijan" so is including the astronauts on a list of persona non grata. (9/19)  

Endeavour’s Last Journey, Through Contentious Space (Source: New York Times) 
On the last flight of its 20-year career, a three-day victory lap across the country on the back of a transport aircraft, Endeavour will log a few thousand miles more before touching down for the final time on Friday at Los Angeles International Airport. But the final segment of Endeavour’s journey has proved perhaps the toughest yet: 12 miles through the dense urban landscape of Los Angeles, past streetlights and trees, to say nothing of city bureaucracy and politics, on its way to retirement at the California Science Center. 

A path was cleared just days before the shuttle’s scheduled arrival, but not without controversy. A storm of criticism and threats of legal action arose in low-income neighborhoods in South Los Angeles over plans to remove hundreds of trees to make way for the bulky spacecraft. "You don’t have to destroy the community to get the thing there, this disenfranchised community of color, which is just repeatedly disrespected,” said Carl Morgan. This week, the science center agreed to donate more than $2 million to those communities. (9/20)  

NASA to Fly Endeavour Over Tucson to Honor Gabby Giffords (Source: ABC) 
The space shuttle Endeavour is on a 2,700 mile cross-country trip — so you had to wonder if it couldn’t make one small detour. Especially at the request of former astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded Endeavour’s last mission before it was retired? Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was struggling to recover from an attempted assassination in Tucson early last year, and his mission to the International Space Station conflicted with her recovery, so his decision to command it was bittersweet, but he had been training for so long, and had faith in the medical team treating his wife. (9/20)  

Holy Crap Cereal rockets to the International Space Station (Source: SpaceRef) 
The Canadian Space Agency announced on Aug. 28 that a British Columbia artisan-made organic cereal is one of 12 Canadian foods to accompany Canadian Astronaut and Mission 35 Commander Chris Hadfield on the December space mission to the International Space Station where he will live and work for six months as part of the crew. 

"We're thrilled that Riley, the Canadian Space Agency contest winner from Abbotsford, suggested our Holy Crap cereal be sent to the International Space Station" says Corin Mullins, CEO of HapiFoods Group. "We originally developed the cereal for emergency kits because of its healthy nutritional content and long shelf-life so it seems more than fitting for it to go up to the Space Station." (9/19)  

Straw and Sawdust: Aviation Fuel of the Future (Source: Scientific American) 
Passenger jets could be chomping on straw or flying on fuel extracted from sawdust in coming years as the search widens for cleaner alternatives to kerosene, French scientists say. The "ProBio3" project, started in early July and co-financed by a French government economic stimulus program, aims to use traditional horse-bedding materials to develop a new kind of biofuel that can be used in a 50/50 blend alongside kerosene. (9/20)  

More Changes at KSC Visitor Complex (Source: SpaceKSC) 
If you've been to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in recent months, you may have noticed a lot of construction. Most of it is for the new orbiter Atlantis museum, but on the west side a new entrance is about to open. When it's operational in a few days, guests will enter the complex directly into the historic Rocket Garden. The Rocket Garden construction fence came down last night. Final work continues, but here are photos of how it appeared Wednesday morning.  

Editor's Note: Meanwhile, on the KSCVC's northwest corner, the Center for Space Education--built decades ago by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) with Challenger License Plate revenues--has lost a major tenant with UCF's Florida Space Institute and the Florida Space Grant Consortium moving to UCF's campus in Orlando. This leaves the AMF with only two tenants, Space Florida and NASA's Educator Resource Center. (9/20)  

Should Religion Boldly Go Interstellar? (Source: Discovery) 
Sending people to another star will be a monumental undertaking, and the challenges will be not just technological, but human. One thorny question, experts say, is whether to involve organized religions in the effort to mount an interstellar journey. Religious leaders argued the issue Sept. 14 in Houston at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss the prospect of sending a space mission to another star within 100 years. 

The church has the resources, funding and reach to garner support for an interstellar mission, said Jason Batt, group life director at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif. Batt said there is "spiritual potential" in space travel and that the church should begin preparing an organization for an off-planet ministry. 

However, others resisted the notion of involving organized religions in a starship mission. Such a voyage would likely be long, and may involve multiple generations, with perhaps 10,000 people onboard. "The only way humanity can survive is if they leave behind the Earth-based religions," charged Rev. Alvin Carpenter, pastor at First Southern Baptist Church West Sacramento. "If there's any way to make this fail, bring Earth-bound religions." Religions, he argued, breed aggression and conflict, citing the violent history of his own faith, Christianity, in episodes such as the Inquisition and the Crusades. (9/19)  

Record Minimum for Arctic Sea Ice (Source: BBC) 
Arctic sea ice has reached its minimum extent for the year, setting a record for the lowest summer cover since satellite data collection began. The 2012 extent has fallen to 3.41 million sq km (1.32 million sq mi) - 50% lower than the 1979-2000 average. Arctic sea ice has long been regarded as a sensitive indicator of changes in the climate. 

Scientists who have been analyzing the startling melt think it is part of a fundamental change. "We are now in uncharted territory," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Center (NSIDC) in Colorado. "While we've long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur." (9/19) 

Introducing the SpaceX Watch (Source: NewSpace Watch) 
The new TAG Heuer Carrera 1887 “SpaceX” is a limited edition chronograph. This stellar looking timepiece marks the 50th anniversary of TAG Heuer (originally Heuer) being the first Swiss timepiece to be worn in space, a modified Heuer 2915A stopwatch, worn by astronaut John Glenn. 2,012 of the watches will be developed, at a price of $5,800 each. The caliber is semi-visible through smoked-sapphire case back that is overlaid with a rendering of the SpaceX logo and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch rocket and the Dragon spacecraft. Click here. (9/19)  

House Passes Bill to Clarify Astronaut Ownership of Apollo Mementos (Source: SpaceRef) 
The House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 4158, a bipartisan bill introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) to confirm full ownership rights to artifacts received by Apollo-era astronauts from their space missions. Chairman Hall said, "This bill seeks to eliminate any further ambiguity about Apollo-era artifacts that were received by the astronauts. It simply says that astronauts who flew through the end of the Apollo program will be granted full right of ownership of any artifacts received from their missions." (9/19)  

Altius Wins Contract to Develop Touch-to-Grasp Gripper with JPL (Source: Parabolic Arc) 
Altius Space Machines is pleased to announce that it has been selected by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena, CA. to provide engineering services as part of the DARPA Phoenix Program. The goal of the DARPA Phoenix Program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively repurpose valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. (9/19)  

India Looks For Greater Industry Participation In Space (Source: Aviation Week) 
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to support its indigenous space technology industry to make launch vehicles and communication satellites. “If industry takes up launch vehicles and satellites through a consortium and [working] with ISRO, it will benefit all of us in several ways. ISRO could focus on more challenging tasks,” according to ISRO chief K. Radhakrishnan. 

Since space missions have become a lucrative business for private industry, and in order to meet the huge demand for satellite services, “in the next two years, we need to work the with industry on this in a mission mode and show the new face of Indian space industry,” he says. “ISRO would like to sit on one side and look at Indian Space Industry Consortia [to] take leadership in niche areas of operational and launch vehicle systems. If we fail to move into such a production regime now, we will feel the pinch in the next decade,” Radhakrishnan said recently. (9/19)  

Florida Governor: Turbine Maker's Job Cuts in Orlando Why Feds Must Cut Red Tape (Source: SSN) 
Gov. Rick Scott said the federal government needs to do a better job of cutting regulations, as evidenced by the announcement from a Germany-based turbine maker to cut 60 positions in Orlando -- in part because of the looming expiration of a key U.S. wind tax credit. Congress has “to do what we’ve been doing in Florida: reduce taxes, reduce regulations, streamline the permitting process,” Scott said on Wednesday. 

“I know they’re having a tough time figuring out if there is a return for the taxpayers and so I look forward to getting more information. But I know that whether it is that or sequestration that’s going to happen in January, these things are going to have an impact on our state, on jobs in our state.” Siemans, which has reported a 40 percent drop in new orders, claims the credits are needed to help compete against cheap natural gas prices in the United States. 

The jobs are among 615 being slashed at factories producing windmills. At the same time, Scott has also called for the Department of Economic Opportunity to set up shop before a massive round of announced layoffs from Fort Worth-based American Airlines kicks in in November that could impact as many as 1,414. (9/18)

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