September 8, 2012

ATK Moving On After Liberty CCiCap Proposal Loss (Source:
ATK's Liberty rocket and crew capsule scored lower than competitors on technical and business grounds in NASA's commercial crew competition. Trina Helquist, an ATK spokesperson, said the company was assessing the future of the Liberty program. ATK officials previously said Liberty's development would be significantly slowed without a NASA investment. With government funding, ATK projected Liberty's first piloted orbital test flight in 2015.

"We received NASA's debrief and learned that although our proposal focused on the strategic goals called out in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability solicitation - such as cost to government, schedule and safety - those categories were not given clear weighting in the ratings of the proposal," Helquist said in a written statement. "We have full confidence in our system's high level of safety, low cost to the government and Liberty's ability to launch crewed flights by 2015." (9/8)

Crowdfunding Boosts Spacey Ideas (Source: NBC)
Michael Laine was just looking for $8,000 to restart the LiftPort Group and put it on a path toward someday building a space elevator on the moon — but with a few days left to go on his Kickstarter campaign, the venture has attracted nearly $70,000 and counting. Which actually poses a challenge: What will he do with all that money?
"I've got to tell you the honest truth: I am tired," Laine told me today. "This campaign has taken me places I didn't expect. ... Now we've been burning the midnight oil trying to figure out what's next."

Laine's experience is in line with what other space entrepreneurs are finding: Crowdfunding campaigns can capitalize on the enthusiasm that regular folks have about outer-space ventures such as ArduSat (which would put Internet users in control of a yet-to-be-launched small satellite) and Uwingu (which aims to "game-ify" space exploration in an as-yet-unspecified way). Click here, (9/8)

Canadian Ventures Deep Underground to Train for Space Mission (Source: CTV)
A Canadian astronaut who has spent his life training to travel to the stars is heading in the opposite direction, venturing deep underground on an expedition meant to simulate a space mission. David Saint-Jacques is the first Canadian to participate in the European Space Agency's Co-operative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior -- also known as CAVES.

Saint-Jacques is on a team along with NASA's Mike Fincke, the European Space Agency’s Andreas Mogensen, Russia's Nikolai Tikhonov and Japan's Soichi Noguchi. The team spent a week training for the expedition in Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean, then ventured underground Friday, entering into a labyrinth of caves that stretches tens of kilometers underground -- much of it unexplored and unmapped. (9/8)

French Agency Funds Competing Military Satcom Studies (Source: Space News)
The French arms-procurement agency, DGA, on Sept. 7 said it had contracted with France’s two satellite prime contractors to conduct competing one-year studies on a next-generation military satellite communications system to succeed France’s Syracuse 3 network in 2019. Thales Alenia Space, a French-Italian contractor headquartered in Cannes, France; and Astrium Satellites of France, Britain and Germany, will examine designs for what DGA for now is calling the Comsat NG system. (9/7)

Atlas V Rocket Scheduled for Afternoon Launch (Source: Launch Alert)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload is scheduled to be launched by team Vandenberg from Space Launch Complex-3 here Thursday at 2:39 p.m. The launch, originally scheduled for Aug. 2, was postponed when a range instrumentation issue developed during countdown. The issue has been resolved and the range is ready to support a safe and successful launch. (9/8)

Court Orders Compensation for Former ISRO Scientist (Source: The Hindu)
A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday directed the State government to pay the former ISRO scientist, S. Nambinarayanan, an interim compensation of Rs.10 lakh, as ordered by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), for keeping him in illegal police custody in connection with a 1994 espionage case. The Bench, comprising Justices C.N. Ramachandran Nair and C.K. Abdul Rehim, issued the directive after setting aside a single judge’s order revoking the Commission’s directive on the interim compensation.

The court also ordered the government to pay him the compensation in three months. The court, however, vacated the NHRC’s directive to the government to take action against the police officers responsible for violating the human rights of Mr. Nambinarayanan. (9/8)

SpaceX Founder Guides Vision for Rising Company (Source: Brownsville Herald)
SpaceX is the third component of The Future According to Musk. In a 2007 interview with Inc. magazine, which had named him its entrepreneur of the year, Elon Musk identified three areas that would affect the future of humanity: the Internet, sustainable energy and space exploration. Musk, the 41-year-old founder, CEO and chief designer at SpaceX is a player in all three. His net worth is estimated at almost $2 billion, but he draws an annual salary of $1. He believes SpaceX will land astronauts on Mars within 10 years, 15 to 20 years at the most.

Now, SpaceX is eyeing the Boca Chica Beach area of Cameron County for the site from which it will launch its rockets over the Gulf of Mexico and into space.County and Brownsville city officials actively are courting the company, which it sees as the engine that that could drive the region’s economic development and put the Rio Grande Valley on the map. (9/7)

Sunday Will See PSLV’s Biggest Commercial Lift (Source: The Hindu)
This Sunday, the Indian Space Research Organization is set to make another mark in its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launcher business when it flies French earth observation satellite SPOT 6. In the 13 years since the PSLV went commercial, the 720 kg SPOT 6 will be its biggest commercial lift. PROITERES, a 15-kg Japanese observation satellite, will also be put in orbit that day. For the third time in 21 PSLV (one failed) missions, there will be no Indian satellite on it. (9/7)

Com Dev Looks to Commercial Ka-band for Future Growth (Source: Space News)
Canadian satellite electronics manufacturer Com Dev International on Sept. 6 reported a 7 percent increase in revenue and an 11 percent increase in order backlog for the three months ending July 31 and said broadband satellites using Ka-band frequencies are “the wave of the future.” In a conference call with investors, Com Dev said building switches and other gear for Ka-band spacecraft is no more profitable than doing the same work for satellites using the more-conventional C- or Ku-band frequencies. (9/7)

A Closer Look at the CCiCAP Selection Decisions (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Earlier this week, NASA published a Selection Statement explaining how and why it awarded $1.1 billion in commercial crew contracts to Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX last month. The 13-page document, written by William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, lays out how the NASA rated the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) proposals submitted by these three companies and ATK, which did not receive funding. A summary of the document with the ratings and rationale is here. (9/7)

Why Exploration Deserves a Holiday (Source: WIRED)
Every October, Americans take a day off in commemoration of a slave-wrangler, a man who governed by greed and oversaw genocide. They also celebrate a bold explorer, a man who risked everything and sailed across an ocean to “discover” a New World. The holiday, of course, celebrates the same man: Christopher Columbus. But as historians have revealed ugly truths about the explorer and his atrocious treatment of native populations, Americans have developed a schizophrenic relationship with Columbus Day.

A new proposal would put an end to the awkward sanctification of the deeply flawed Columbus while continuing to celebrate his exploratory zeal. The goal: to re-purpose Columbus Day as Exploration Day. The plan is the brainchild of Karl Frank, Jr., a self-proclaimed “IT guy” and impassioned science enthusiast from St. Louis. As the news of Neil Armstrong’s death broke, Frank heard a passing comment from a news broadcast comparing the first man on the Moon with Columbus, and it got him thinking.

“I nonchalantly posted on Facebook that instead of Columbus Day, we ought to have a Neil Armstrong Day,” he recalls, “and it snowballed from there.” Frank tweaked his proposal to include a broader conception of exploration, and then called up his friends Tom Diehl and Rod Wright, with whom he had worked on local school board projects. The trio then put together a formal petition, which needs 25,000 signatures by September 27th in order to get desk time with President Obama. Click here. (9/7)

NASA Document Gives Details on Commercial Crew Picks (Source: Space News)
Justifying the backup CCiCap role for Sierra Nevada, NASA wrote that Dream Chaser’s winged design “presents some unique challenges not found in a capsule design,” particularly the risks associated with Dream Chaser’s thermal protection system. "...But once those risks are retired you actually have a vehicle that can do many more things in space,” said SNC's Mark Sirangelo on Sep. 7.

Meanwhile, ATK spokesman George Torres said Sep. 5 that Liberty officials learned during a NASA debrief “that although our proposal focused on the strategic goals called out in the CCiCap solicitation — such as cost to the government, schedule and safety — those categories were not given clear weighting in the ratings of the proposal.”

Because NASA used Space Act Agreements instead of traditional government contracts for CCiCap, ATK and the other losers do not have the option of protesting the awards. Torres said it was “too early to tell” whether ATK would continue Liberty’s development absent NASA funding. “We’ll have to reassess our plans,” he said. (9/8)

Pad Operator on Front Lines of European Launcher Debate (Source: Space News)
One of Europe’s principal companies involved in the maintenance of satellite and launch-pad facilities says it has already reduced per-launch costs as Europe moves from one launcher to three but has not yet determined how much lower it can go. That question puts France-based Clemessy, which manages power, lighting, security and other functions for facilities at the Guiana Space Center spaceport, on the front lines of the current debate about the direction Europe’s launcher sector should take.

Government ministers from the 19-nation European Space Agency (ESA) are scheduled to decide in November whether the current heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA vehicle, which has been unable to generate a profit despite its long success, should be upgraded or replaced. Current Ariane 5 contractors, led by Astrium Space Transportation of France and Germany, argue for the upgrade, which would add 20 percent to the current Ariane 5 ECA’s payload-carrying capacity for commercial telecommunications satellites.

Key to this argument is the promise that the Ariane 5 contracting team in Europe and French Guiana will be able to use the added payload power, combined with reduced costs of operating and maintaining Ariane 5, to permit ESA governments to stop making annual Ariane 5 support payments. Those payments average 120 million euros ($150 million) per year. (9/7)

Office Vacancy Shifted EELV Milestone Authority (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon’s acquisition czar assumed a key oversight role for an overbudget military satellite launching program because the U.S. Air Force office that previously held that responsibility had been vacated, the service said. Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, took over the milestone decision authority for EELV program as part of a congressionally mandated review triggered by soaring costs.

Milestone decision authority is military procurement terminology that refers to the bureaucratic power to determine whether a weapon system is ready to move to a new phase of development. Speaking Sep. 5, Kendall said it would have been difficult to justify continuation of the program had he not assumed milestone decision authority. The Air Force does not have an acquisition executive in place with the credentials to exercise that responsibility, he said. (9/7)

New Acting Head for Khrunichev Center (Source: Space News)
The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, has appointed Vasily Sychyov as the acting head of one of the country’s premier space manufacturers, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, the company said Sep. 6. Sychyov will temporarily fill the post vacated by Vladimir Nesterov, who was relieved of his duties as Khrunichev general director in the wake of an Aug. 7 Proton rocket failure that destroyed a pair of telecommunications satellites. (9/7)

Federal Space Agency Head Forms Commission to Choose Khrunichev Head (Source: Itar-Tass)
Federal Space Agency head Vladimir Popovkin has signed an ordinance to set up a commission, which will choose the new General Director of the Khrunichev Space Center, an Agency spokesman told Itar-Tass on Friday. “Former Khrunichev head Vladimir Nesterov will stay in the space industry,” he said. The Russian president dismissed Nesterov on August 31, 2012, following the Briz-M booster accident in which two satellites failed to reach the intended orbit. (9/7)

With History in Aviation, Brownsville Hopes to Refuel Image with Aerospace Role (Source: Brownsville Herald)
It was a sad day for Brownsville in 1959 when Pan American World Airways pulled up stakes and moved its Western Division headquarters to Miami. The airline, which had set up shop in Brownsville in the late 1920s, was a major employer and a point of pride for the city as Pan Am’s “Gateway to Latin America.” Brownsville was a pioneer in air travel, and Pan Am was part of its identity. It lasted for 30 years, and then it was gone.

Today, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, may offer a chance to recapture some of that pres-tige and the benefits that come with it should the company decide to build a facility in Cameron County to launch its spacecraft. Gilberto Salinas, vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council, which has been in talks with SpaceX since March 2011, said the city’s aviation legacy was not lost on the company’s management.

“SpaceX is aware of that,” he said of Pan Am’s legacy here. “They brought it up. They use our airport as an example. They said what they’re trying to do is what a handful of cities did: All of the airports were owned by the military, then slowly they started building private airports and Brownsville was one of the first ones, they said.” (9/6)

House Commercial Crew Hearing Next Week (Source: Space Politics)
The full House Science Committee is planning a hearing for the morning of Friday, September 14, on “Recent Developments in NASA’s Commercial Crew Acquisition Strategy”. NASA associate administration William Gerstenmaier and Joseph Dyer, the chairman of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, are the two scheduled witnesses.

The hearing is likely to cover NASA’s decision last month to award funded Space Act Agreements to three companies—Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX—for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase of the agency’s overall commercial crew program. Earlier this week NASA released the CCiCap Selection Statement where Gerstenmaier, the NASA selection official, explained the rationale for why NASA elected to make those particular awards, and why the fourth major entrant in the competition, ATK, did not receive an award. (9/8)

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