October 10, 2012

Texas Commercial Space Endeavor Would Have Economic Benefits (Source: Hilltop Views)
Since June, SpaceX, has been buying property in Cameron County. The company has been shopping around for the ideal site to build a commercial spaceflight program in this South Texas region. Although SpaceX has purchased land in Cameron County, the final decision about where they will build their launch site has yet to be made. SpaceX is also looking at areas in Florida, Puerto Rico and Virginia [and Georgia and Hawaii?]. However, Cameron County is said to be the lead contender for the program.

The land that SpaceX bought is located roughly five miles north of the Mexican border and three miles south of South Padre Island, according to the Austin American-Statesman. This is a prime location because space crafts need to be able to land in a large body of open water while staying close to the equator. For those people with a real adventurous spirit, this company could provide a chance to explore the last great frontier. The prospect of being able to take a trip into space is definitely exciting. It is a childhood dream come true.

Besides offering people a chance to live out their dreams, this space tourism program would be a great addition to Texas. If Cameron County is chosen as SpaceX’s launch site, it would make South Texas the center of space tourism, which would lead to the creation of many new jobs. However, the land that SpaceX has purchased is located near two state parks and a wildlife reserve, according to KUT. This fact raises concerns about the environmental impact that a rocket launching site would have on the surrounding area. (10/10)

Space Age Treaty is Born (Source: Tennessean)
Space lawyers were born on Oct. 10, 1967, when the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,” commonly called the Outer Space Treaty, went into effect just over 10 years after the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I. The terms of the treaty were agreed upon in 1966, and the treaty was signed by the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain on Jan. 27, 1967; 101 countries have ratified the treaty, and 26 others have signed but not yet ratified it.

The primary criticism of the 1967 treaty is that by declaring all of outer space a common heritage for mankind, it essentially made all of space outside the Earth’s atmosphere a wilderness preserve. The treaty removed incentive for nations or private companies to explore, claim and colonize space for exploitation and expansion. In this analysis, there is no frontier to tame, only a cosmic park for photographic safaris. The recent excitement over the Curiosity landing on Mars represents the latent interest in space exploration, but critics point to the virtual absence of space exploration activity since the treaty came into effect 45 years ago.

Certainly, there has been significant use of space for communication, mapping, research and governmental spying activities; yet, no manned exploration efforts have been attempted since the United States mothballed the Apollo program. The Outer Space Treaty has no significant penalties for withdrawal. Signatories only must give one year’s notice of intent to leave the treaty. Click here. (10/10)

The Need to Explore (Source: Dickinson Press)
Modern space exploration is a game that scientists, engineers and technobots get real excited about, but you and I aren’t going to care a lick until they find one of those creepy creatures behind a big red rock on Mars or at least send a few dudes from here up there to chase them around. Because, let’s face it, exploration is what you and I are all about, grabbing things and putting them in our mouth shortly after birth, getting up on our haunches and roaming down the street when Mom isn’t looking, banging our head into walls, falling down stairs, burning our fingers.

We all want to be Christopher Columbus or Lewis and Clark, Hernando Cortez or Sir Francis Drake. It’s exciting, invigorating, stimulating, rewarding and essential. But this space exploration business is something that only a few of us get to do since out of 6 billion or 7 billion people on this planet, a maximum of five or six might be in space at one time and what fun is that? So, if space exploration isn’t going to work out, at least not for all of us, how is it that we are going to flex our raging exploration muscle? (10/10)

India Test-Fires Mars Mission Engine (Source: Times of India)
The engines of the Indian Mars orbiter were tested for the first time on Monday morning. Speaking to TOI from Bangalore, Isro chief spokesperson Devi Prasad Karnik said the engine, known as the liquid apogee motor (LAM), was fired for about 670 seconds at Isro's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendra Giri in Tamil Nadu. "The test was successful and will go on for about 45 days," he said. The mission is slated for lift off towards the end of October or beginning of November 2013. (10/10)

Movie Planned on IRSO Spy Scandal (Source: Yentha)
Nambi Narayanan has agreed to making a movie based on his personal story which involves a fabricated spy scandal closely bordering on being a sex scandal, a wide set of self centred and ambitious politicians and police officers and a dented career of one of the leading scientists of his time. The movie titled 'Witch Hunt' would be scripted by journalist-writer C P Surendran. 20th Century Fox is rumoured to produce this big-budget movie and the shooting is expected to begin early next year. (10/10)

USAF Launch On Hold Pending Delta IV Investigation (Source: Aviation Week)
The go-ahead for launch of the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is on hold pending the review of an “unexpected data signature” emitted during the Oct. 8 launch of Boeing’s GPS IIF-3 satellite on a Delta IV rocket. United Launch Alliance and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne are investigating the anomaly, and certification of the OTV launch will not be provided until officials understand the root cause. (10/10)

Curiosity Working With First Scooped Sample of Mars (Source: NASA JPL)
The team operating Curiosity decided on Oct. 9, 2012, to proceed with using the rover's first scoop of Martian material. Plans for Sol 64 (Oct. 10) call for shifting the scoopful of sand and dust into the mechanism for sieving and portioning samples, and vibrating it vigorously to clean internal surfaces of the mechanism. This first scooped sample, and the second one, will be discarded after use, since they are only being used for the cleaning process. Subsequent samples scooped from the same "Rocknest" area will be delivered to analytical instruments. (10/10)

Found Object Likely Benign Plastic from Curiosity Rover (Source: SpaceRef)
Curiosity's main activity in the 62nd sol of the mission was to image a small, bright object on the ground using the Remote Micro-Imager of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument. The rover team's assessment is that the bright object is something from the rover, not Martian material. It appears to be a shred of plastic material, likely benign, but it has not been definitively identified. To proceed cautiously, the team is continuing the investigation for another day before deciding whether to resume processing of the sample in the scoop. (10/9)

Dragon Connects with Space Station (Source: NASA)
The International Space Station Expedition 33 crew successfully captured the SpaceX Dragon capsule with the station’s robotic arm at 6:56 a.m. EDT. Berthing time is currently scheduled to begin around 9:40 a.m. Following its capture, the SpaceX Dragon capsule is being maneuvered by ground controllers at the end of the International Space Station’s robotic arm for installation onto the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module. (10/10)

Charting Space Shuttle History on the Southland Map (Source: LA Times)
Look hard and the ghosts of the nation's 40-year-old space shuttle program can be found hidden in plain sight across Southern California. They inhabit a sprawling, virtually lifeless building in Canoga Park, where an army of Rocketdyne aerospace engineers once forged shuttle engines amid a haze of cigarette smoke and the clatter of mechanical calculators.

They can be found in the Mojave Desert, at a secured Air Force base in Palmdale, where the shuttles were assembled in a hangar now being used by Boeing Co. to temporarily store office furniture. And — for the moment at least — they can be found in Downey, where long-armed excavators tear through the 120-acre Boeing facility where many of the shuttle's parts were manufactured. A complex that once employed 12,000 people is now a mountain of rubble, its history unknown to passersby. Click here. (10/9)

NASA Heavy-Lift Booster to Be Developed at Marshall (Source: AL.com)
The core booster for NASA's next-generation rocket will be developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. This morning, ATK -- which will be utilizing the center's facilities and engineers -- announced it's won a $50-million contract from NASA as part of a 30-month contract. The total contract is valued at $137.3 million.

The purpose of NASA's efforts is to get feedback on high-risk areas in order to work on solutions or mitigation strategies before the advanced booster is designed around 2016. That way the project can avoid having "money pits." Karner said ATK also plans to identify technological advances that have come about since the last booster was designed four decades ago. The majority of the work will take place between June 2014 and February 2015. (10/10)

Editorial: Obama's Cuts To Commercial Space Imagery A 'Hegemonic' Mistake (Source: AOL Defense)
The Obama Administration has brought on a gradual but clear withdrawal from public-private partnerships, which started with the administration's assault on the F-22. We are about to see the same thing happen to commercial space imagery. The reason the Clinton and Bush Administrations were committed to private sector space was not because of their ideological commitment, but because of a sound business strategy.

If you could get the investments made by the private sector tapping into market funds to work for government-usable products, it was recognized that cost savings occurred on two grounds. The first is clearly on capital costs. The second is reducing the need to build, buy, and maintain government-only systems, which are inherently expensive because of the high cost of public sector operations.

But for the Obama Administration, there is a clear reversal going on. Even in the face of significant budgetary pressures and constraints, there seems to be little or no real commitment (except in words) for the public-private partnerships, which can drive economies of scale and capital investment savings. Current, US government policies will lead one of the two major suppliers of commercial imagery to the US government to fail. The administration clearly has to demonstrate where the public sector funding will come from to replace the money lost from squandering public-private sector opportunities. (10/9)

Concerns Raised About Spy Satellite Merger, But No Showstoppers (Source: AOL Defense)
A study by the intelligence community raised industrial base "concerns" about the merger between commercial spy satellite companies GeoEye and DigitalGlobe but found no showstoppers. That's the word from NGA's  Letitia Long. I asked Long if industrial base issues had been considered by the government as it mulls the merger of America's only two companies that make and operate spy eyes in the sky. She said Michael Vickers, the Pentagon's undersecretary for intelligence, and Jim Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, had ordered a study.

It raised "concerns" – but no showstoppers – about some of the subcontractors who serve the two companies. Several of them are single-source companies, meaning they are the only ones who provide certain services, software or parts. Long said that she didn't know how those subcontractors would be affected by a merger. Since NGA is the principal customer for GeoEye and for DigitalGlobe, Long's views carry a great deal of weight. (10/9)

Giant Asteroid, Mega-Tsunami May have Triggered Ice Age (Source: Cosmos)
A 2km-wide asteroid that hit Earth 2.5 million years ago may have triggered the Ice Age, according to a team of Australian researchers. The monstrous Eltanin asteroid plunged into the Pacific Ocean 2.5 million years ago and generated a mega-tsunami with waves hundreds of feet high, wreaking devastation across the globe. It is the only identified deep-ocean impact in our planet’s history, and could prove to be as significant as the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. (10/10)

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