October 12, 2012

NASA Budget Fundamentals Supercede Campaign Rhetoric (Source: Space News)
NASA will continue to face a mismatch between available funding and programmatic mandates regardless of who wins the White House in November, space policy experts say. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has criticized the current civil space program for its lack of direction, but with the election just three weeks away has yet to articulate an alternative vision. Romney has, however, hinted that he will not seek to boost NASA’s roughly $17 billion annual budget. Analysts say this raises the question of which of NASA’s major programs can be sustained in the years ahead.

“Any changes to NASA would have to fit within the current budget levels, since they’ve indicated that NASA doesn’t need more money,” Jeff Foust wrote. “What specifically would be delayed or canceled isn’t clear, but at current budget levels, something will have to give.” ...Despite the sustainability issue raised by the Augustine panel, Constellation had the political advantage of representing a guiding vision for NASA that is now lacking, said Marcia Smith, a consultant whose space policy website is closely followed inside the Beltway.

“Constellation was destination driven,” Smith said. No matter who wins the election, NASA will be vulnerable to accusations on Capitol Hill and elsewhere that it lacks focus “until there is a destination everyone embraces,” she said. Editor's Note: I hear that NASA is holding off on putting forward any firm destination/timeline plans until after the election, to avoid having them shot down by one candidate or the other, or by Congress, during the volatile election season. Click here. (10/12)

Soyuz Rocket Lifts Galileo Sats From Europe's South American Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Soyuz rocket boosted two validation platforms from French Guiana into orbit Friday for Europe's Galileo navigation network, setting the stage for further launches every six months over the next few years to build a constellation of satellites beaming global positioning services to airplanes, automobiles and millions of users. Click here for photos. (10/12)

Florida Lunar X-Prize Team Enlists Competing Chilean Team for Ride-Along (Source: Omega Envoy)
Earthrise Space Inc., the parent company for Omega Envoy, the Florida team competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), announced that fellow GLXP team member Angelicvm has become a customer. Omega Envoy will be delivering a 1kg version of the Angelicvm Dandelion rover to the surface of the Moon, with a target date set towards the end of 2014.

This alliance provides both teams with a competitive edge that allows for certainty and better chances of accomplishment within the GLXP time frame. Specific details on the transport vehicle and lander would allow the Chilean team to start working out of the prototype phase and begin working on the final primary rover “Dandelion” as well as on the backup, testing it in a series of certifications so that it proves the best chance for success in a travel and destination environment full of challenges.

Editor's Note: This essentially sets The Chilean team up for a guaranteed GLXP second-place win if the Omega Envoy rover wins the first-place prize. Earthrise Space was able to secure the Chilean team's involvement after getting ITAR approvals from the U.S. State Department. Earthrise Space includes students and faculty support from multiple Florida universities, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Space Florida is also a sponsor. (10/12)

Daredevil's Record-Breaking Supersonic Skydive Set for Sunday (Source: Space.com)
An Austrian daredevil aims to leap from the stratosphere Sunday (Oct. 14) in a supersonic plunge that would break the world record for the highest-ever skydive — a benchmark that has lasted more than half a century. Veteran skydiver Felix Baumgartner had hoped to have the nearly 23-mile-high (37 kilometers) jump under his belt by now, but strong winds thwarted attempts on both Monday and Tuesday (Oct. 8 and 9). On Sunday, however, winds may be calm enough to allow the skydiver's towering high-altitude balloon to lift off from its staging ground in Roswell, N.M. (10/12)

SpaceX and NASA Form Investigation Board for Falcon-9 Anomaly (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
SpaceX and NASA have formed a joint investigation board to look into the cause of an engine failure during Sunday's launch of a Falcon 9 rocket on the first operational commercial resupply flight to the International Space Station, SpaceX announced Friday. Katherine Nelson, a SpaceX spokesperson, said in a statement that engineers will understand what happened during launch and fix the problem before the next Falcon 9 launch, which is currently targeted for January. (10/12)

Lagrange Points: A Love Story (Source: Space Rant)
In space… there is a special place. Actually, there are quite a few of them. It’s a place where there is balance in the force. And by “the force”, I of course mean to say the force of gravity. They’re called Lagrange points. Lagrange points are places where the gravitational relationship between two large bodies, where one orbits the other, creates a sort of pocket where an object can stay put using very little energy. The Earth-Moon system has it’s own five Lagrange points, which will be an important set to human space exploration activities early on. Click here. (10/12)

Satellite Broadband Gets Millions More Africans Online (Source: New Scientist)
Like many cybercafes in the center of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the Amazon Digital Internet Café is always jam-packed. Run by Annette Byaruhanga and her husband Ernest, the venue can make up to 400,000 Ugandan shillings ($155) on a good day.

But every now and then there is a major problem. When the country's undersea communications cables are damaged - and they often are - it causes havoc for local people and businesses. During a recent hiccup, Annette Byaruhanga lost business for two weeks. "We were severely affected by disruption of broadband service when the undersea cable was ruptured," she says. "The damage spoiled our reputation. Our customers lost confidence in our café."

There could soon be a solution. A recent satellite launch promises to revolutionise broadband in East Africa, helping to bring high-speed internet to some of the millions in the region still without it. The small HYLAS 2 satellite, developed by Avanti Communications, based in London, was launched in early August. The satellite completed its orbital testing in early September and is almost ready to begin commercial services. (10/12)

Moon Programs Financed in Full in Russia, Mission Planned for 2015 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The moon exploration programs are financed in full, said the director-general and designer-general of the Lavochkin scientific and production center. The financing is proceeding as normal and in the normal volume, he said.
"We must touch down on the moon in 2015. We must show that we can do it," Khartov noted.

The project is revised and corrected in connection with the Phobos probe mission failure. "The essence of the program is corrected," he said. At the same time, Khartov believes the lunar programs will help to carry out the second mission to Mars successfully. "The Phobos probe failure is a scar on all of us," he said. But it must be taken as a lesson, he added. (10/12)

Romney Would Restore Pentagon Budget Immediately, Advisers Say (Source: Defense News)
Campaign advisers for presidential candidate Mitt Romney have said that the Republican nominee would end sequestration cuts to the Department of Defense's budget immediately if he is elected. Romney's budget would allot 4% of gross domestic product to the Pentagon's base budget. Campaign advisers also say that Romney would reverse other sequestration cuts. (10/12)

Acting FAA Chief Calls for Collaboration to Continue NextGen Progress (Source: Avionics Intelligence)
The Federal Aviation Administration's acting administrator, Michael Huerta, emphasized the need for collaboration among government, industry, unions and others in a speech about the Next Generation Air Transportation System. "Collaboration is key to making NextGen a reality now,” he said, saying that parts of NextGen are already in place at some airports around the country. (10/11)

After Endeavour in California, Atlantis Plans Shorter Road-Trip in Florida (Source: KSCVC)
With Space Shuttle Endeavour garnering national media attention for its trip through Los Angeles, you might be interested to know that on Nov. 2, Space Shuttle Atlantis -- the last of the three flown space shuttles -- will make its own historic final journey from KSC's Launch Complex 39 to its new home 10 miles away at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Tickets are available to the public to view this remarkable once-in-a lifetime event and can be purchased at www.KennedySpaceCenter.com. (10/12)

Earth Sunblock Only Needed if Planet Warms Easily (Source: Space Daily)
An increasing number of scientists are studying ways to temporarily reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the earth to potentially stave off some of the worst effects of climate change. Because these sunlight reduction methods would only temporarily reduce temperatures, do nothing for the health of the oceans and affect different regions unevenly, researchers do not see it as a permanent fix. Most theoretical studies have examined this strategy by itself, in the absence of looking at simultaneous attempts to reduce emissions.

Now, a new computer analysis of future climate change that considers emissions reductions together with sunlight reduction shows that such drastic steps to cool the earth would only be necessary if the planet heats up easily with added greenhouse gases. The analysis, reported in the journal Climatic Change, might help future policymakers plan for a changing climate. (10/12)

ESA Denies Ignoring Debris Guidelines on Envisat (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) on Oct. 11 denied allegations that it could have done more to prevent its large Envisat Earth observation satellite, now dead in polar low Earth orbit, from spending the next 100-plus years as a major space-debris threat. Responding to assertions made in a paper presented by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), the 20-nation ESA specifically denied that it had passed up opportunities to place Envisat in a disposal orbit at the end of its life in favor of using the satellite’s remaining fuel to continue operations.

The 8-meter-long, 8,000-kilogram Envisat was launched in 2002. Because of decisions made early in its design in the late 1980s, it carried a relatively small fuel reservoir. In its Oct. 11 statement, ESA said the Envisat design was settled at “a time when space debris was not considered to be a serious problem,” and well before debris-mitigation guidelines were formulated by a group of spacefaring nations, including ESA, as part of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, or IADC. (10/12)

Market Validating Global Xpress Investment, Inmarsat Says (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat on Oct. 9 sought to persuade investors that its $1.2 billion Global Xpress Ka-band satellites, using both military and civil frequencies, is even more promising now than when it was decided in mid-2010, especially since no competing Ka-band system is under construction. Inmarsat repeated its estimate that Global Xpress will generate at least $500 million in revenue by 2019, its fifth full year of service, a figure the company said will be no more than 15 percent of the global market that year. (10/12)

NASA Ready to Name Science-Definition Team for NRO Telescopes (Source: Nature)
Remember those surplus spy telescopes the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) gave NASA earlier this year? The journal Nature reports that NASA is getting ready to unveil the team of scientists that will put pencil to paper to figure out the astronomy missions they're best suited for and — just as importantly — how much this windfall might end up costing. One idea that's been floated is to use one of the telescopes as the basis for a mission that would accomplish many of the same objectives as the Wide Field Infrared Telescope (WFIRST), a dark-energy and exoplanet-hunting mission that ranked first in the 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey. (10/12)

Transportation Research Board Focuses on Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Transportation Research Board (TRB), a division of the National Research Council, has been a major source for research funding and information to support the nation's multi-modal transportation capabilities. Earlier this year, with support from Embry-Riddle Assistant Professor Daniel Friedenzohn, the TRB Committee on Aviation System Planning addressed commercial space transportation during the TRB's 91st Annual Meeting.

At the upcoming 92nd Annual Meeting, on Jan. 13-17, Embry-Riddle Associate Professor Steve Dedmon will participate on a panel and discuss his commercial space planning experience, including the work that he has conducted for both the FAA and the Florida Department of Transportation, in support of commercial space transportation operational and regulatory requirements at various spaceports, including the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and the Cecil Spaceport. (10/12)

SpaceX Explains ORBCOMM Deployment Glitch (Source: Parabolic Arc)
As a result of shutting down one of its nine engines early shortly after the launch, the Falcon 9 rocket used slightly more fuel and oxygen to reach the target orbit for Dragon. For the protection of the space station mission, NASA had required that a restart of the upper stage only occur if there was a very high probability (over 99%) of fully completing the second burn.

While there was sufficient fuel on board to do so, the liquid oxygen on board was only enough to achieve a roughly 95% likelihood of completing the second burn, so Falcon 9 did not attempt a restart. Although the secondary payload, the Orbcomm satellite, was still deployed to orbit by Falcon 9, it was done so at the lower altitude used by Dragon in order to optimize the safety of the space station mission.

SpaceX and NASA are working closely together to review all flight data so that we can understand what happened with the engine, and we will apply those lessons to future flights. We have achieved our goal of repeatedly getting into orbit by creating a careful, methodical and pragmatic approach to the design, testing and launch of our space vehicles. We will approach our analysis in the same manner, with a careful examination of what went wrong and how to best address it. (10/12)

Andrews Space to Manufacture Dutch CubeSat Dispenser (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Andrews Space has signed an agreement with ISIS of the Netherlands to begin manufacturing a US version of the ISIPOD, branded the EZPOD, in the United States. Under the terms of the agreement, Andrews will manufacture and integrate the EZPODs domestically with initial units available as early as January 2013. (10/11)

Next Era in Space Travel and Exploration Continues (Source: Sys-con)
The space shuttle Endeavour will be traveling through the streets of Los Angeles to her new and final home at the California Science Center on Friday, October 12. It will bring a bittersweet end to a notable era in U.S. space exploration, but an exciting new era of privatized space exploration is already well under way. Click here. (10/11)

CASIS Invites Ideas for Hyperspectral Imaging (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, today announced a Request for Information (RFI) to gauge commercial interest in using the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO).

The purpose of this RFI is to assess the potential of using HICO for a wide-variety of hyperspectral imaging needs. HICO was developed to demonstrate the value of high resolution, hyperspectral imaging for ocean waters, but it has also proved useful in modeling photosynthetic pigments as well as dissolved and particulate matter in coastal waters. Click here. (10/12)

India’s Satellite Launch Capability: Problems Remain (Source: People's Democracy)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) saw the successful launch of its latest communications satellite, GSAT-10, on Sep. 29. There were the usual celebrations and claims of new records testifying to India’s growing space prowess, such as that GSAT-10, at 3400 kg, was the heaviest ISRO satellite so far. But those who follow space ventures know well, and the Indian public should realize too, that this triumph masks some serious weaknesses in the Indian space program.

Indeed, it was precisely these limitations that were glossed over, by some in ignorance but by many deliberately, in the hyped media coverage and triumphalist official proclamations not so long ago over the announcement by the prime minister of an ISRO mission to Mars in 2013.

Some might argue with this perspective, and see it as a reflection of an unfortunate Indian tendency to bemoan the gloomier side of India’s development story, to see the cloud rather than the silver lining. In the present case, though, this article is an effort to counter the equally regrettable tendency of many in our country to go gaga over some achievement and gloss over major problems lurking under the surface. (10/12)

Soyuz Rocket Set to Deploy Two Galileo Satellites (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Two satellites for Europe's Galileo navigation program are awaiting liftoff Friday on a Soyuz rocket, beginning a campaign to validate the system's accuracy and functionality before completing a 30-satellite constellation later this decade. The in-orbit validation, or IOV, satellites will allow European officials to test Galileo's ability to provide precise positioning, navigation and timing services. (10/12)

Curiosity Finds New Type of Mars Rock (Source: SEN)
When Mars Curiosity fired radioactive particles at a rock for the first time, it was supposed to be a calibration – a way for scientists to ensure that an instrument on the $2.1 billion rover was working correctly. Not only is Curiosity's Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer in fine shape, but the rover also made a surprising finding with it: Curiosity discovered a type of igneous rock never seen before on Mars. Results from the APXS and another instrument, presented to reporters Thursday, show that the rock is an alkaline basalt. It's a rare kind of rock on Earth, but the type is well-studied. (10/12)

Wallops in the Wings to Resupply Space Station (Source: Daily Press)
SpaceX made history Wednesday when its Dragon spacecraft berthed with the International Space Station in what NASA touts as a key milestone in commercial spaceflight. But waiting in the wings at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore — literally sitting on its brand new $145 million launch pad — is the Antares rocket, slated to ship the Cygnus spacecraft into orbit as the second commercial vehicle to begin resupplying the station.

Before that happens, the Antares is being put through its paces: Weeks of testing its mechanical, electrical, propellant and gas management systems. Then fueling and de-fueling in a "wet" dress rehearsal. Following that, a hot-fire test scheduled for next month to launch the rocket and a simulated Cygnus craft laden with sensors to gather even more data.

"The next thing we do is, we launch. We fly," said Barron Beneski, spokesman at the Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corporation, which designed and built the Antares and Cygnus. That demonstration flight, which will include a trial docking with the space station, is expected in 2013. "We're making progress every day," Beneski said. "Sometimes it seems to be painfully slow, but we keep moving forward." If it seems painfully slow, it's actually far from it, according to Beneski. (10/12)

A Diamond Bigger Than Earth? (Source: Reuters)
Forget the diamond as big as the Ritz. This one's bigger than planet Earth. Orbiting a star that is visible to the naked eye, astronomers have discovered a planet twice the size of our own made largely out of diamond. The rocky planet, called '55 Cancri e', orbits a sun-like star in the constellation of Cancer and is moving so fast that a year there lasts a mere 18 hours.

Discovered by a U.S.-Franco research team, its radius is twice that of Earth's with a mass eight times greater. That would give it the same density as Earth, although previously observed diamond planets are reckoned to be a lot more dense. It is also incredibly hot, with temperatures on its surface reaching 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,648 Celsius). (10/11)

Suni Williams: Space Station a Busy Place (Source: ABC)
This is Williams’ second six-month stay on the station, and to hear her tell it, the now-completed science lab in the sky is as busy as a truck stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Since Williams arrived in mid-July, the crew has welcomed a Japanese cargo vehicle, a Russian cargo ship, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and now the Dragon capsule. In two weeks, another Soyuz will dock to bring three additional crew members.

Williams, a Navy Captain, is only the second female commander of the International Space Station, and holds the record for the longest continuous spaceflight by a woman, the number of spacewalks by a woman, and most spacewalk time by a woman. They’re hardly her only claims to fame. In September, Williams completed the first-ever triathlon from space, biking on an exercise bike, running on a treadmill, and using a special weight-lifting resistance machine to simulate a half-mile swim. Click here. (10/11)

Focus On Space Debris: Envisat (Source: ESA)
Space debris came into focus last week at the International Astronautical Congress in Naples, Italy. Envisat, ESA’s largest Earth observation satellite, ended its mission last spring and was a subject of major interest in the Space Debris and Legal session. Envisat was planned and designed in 1987–1990, a time when space debris was not considered to be a serious problem and before the existence of mitigation guidelines, established by the UN in 2007 and adopted the next year by ESA for all of its projects.

Only later, during the post-launch operational phase, did Envisat’s orbit of about 780 km become a risky debris environment, particularly following the Chinese antisatellite missile test in 2007 and the collision between the Iridium and the Cosmos satellites in 2009. Lowering Envisat to an orbit that would allow reentry within 25 years, however, was never an option because of its design and limited amount of fuel.

Even if controllers had lowered the satellite immediately after launch in 2002, there would not have been enough fuel to bring it down low enough – to around 600 km – where it could reenter within 25 years. ESA is strongly committed to reducing space debris. Today, the deorbiting of missions is taken into consideration during the development of future satellites, and during the operations of current satellites when technically feasible. (10/11)

Obama Funder Gets Insider Deal at NASA (Source: Washington Examiner)
Questions are being raised about NASA's relationship with Silicon Valley whiz Elon Musk in the wake of his Falcon 9 rocket delivering only half of the promised cargo on its first mission to the International Space Station. The rocket lost power from one of its nine engines shortly after its Sunday launch and only delivered 882 of the promised 1,800 pounds of resupply cargo for the space station.

Manufactured by Musk's SpaceX, the Falcon 9 also failed to deliver as promised when it placed a prototype Orbcomm OG2 satellite into a lower orbit than required. The satellite was a secondary payload on the widely heralded first-ever launch of a privately owned and developed rocket on a NASA-funded mission to the space station. These are not the Falcon 9 project's first setbacks, as it is at least two years behind schedule and three previous test launches were cancelled.

Space X is one of three well-publicized Musk firms, the others being electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors and SolarCity Corp., a rooftop solar power panel manufacturer. Collectively, the three Musk firms have received more than $1.5 billion in government funding since President Obama took office in 2009. Editor's Note: Clearly a hatchet job. Click here to read the corrections and criticisms. (10/11)

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