October 2, 2012

Aerospace Roundtable Discussion Planned with Shannon Roberts (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast will host an October 11 roundtable discussion in Rockledge with Shannon Roberts, 2012 Congressional Candidate – District 8, on opportunities and challenges within the aerospace and defense industries. This policy forum will center on the substantive transition in the aerospace industry, as well as the looming threat of sequestration for the defense industry, both of which have the potential for extreme effects on our economy. Roberts is a Democrat running against incumbent Republican Bill Posey to represent a district that includes the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (10/2)

Paragon's NASA Funded Technology Now Used in Mine Refuge Chambers (Source: SpaceRef)
A technology designed for use by astronauts in the hazardous environment of space has found a lifesaving use in another dangerous occupation, but this time on Earth, or rather under it: coal mining. Paragon Space Development Corp. is providing the air revitalization system it matured under a NASA Space Act Agreement to Mine Shield LLC of Lancaster, KY., for use in its underground miner refuge chambers. These air-tight metal chambers are used by miners as lifesaving havens when trapped underground providing air, water, and food until rescued. (10/2)

Landsat Satellites Find the 'Sweet Spot' for Crops (Source: Space Daily)
Farmers are using maps created with free data from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellites that show locations that are good and not good for growing crops. Farmer Gary Wagner walks into his field where the summer leaves on the sugar beet plants are a rich emerald hue - not necessarily a good color when it comes to sugar beets, either for the environment or the farmer. That hue tells Wagner that he's leaving money in the field in unused nitrogen fertilizer, which if left in the soil can act as a pollutant when washed into waterways, and in unproduced sugar, the ultimate product from his beets.

The leaf color Wagner is looking for is yellow. Yellow means the sugar beets are stressed, and when the plants are stressed, they use more nitrogen from the soil and store more sugar. Higher sugar content means that when Wagner and his family bring the harvest in, their farm, A.W.G. Farms, Inc., in northern Minnesota, makes more dollars per acre, and they can better compete on the world crop market. To find where he needs to adjust his fertilizer use-apply it here or withhold it there-Wagner uses a map of his 5,000 acres that span 35 miles. The map was created using free data from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellites. (10/2)

Lockheed Cancels Layoff Notices After White House Memo (Source: The Hill)
Major weapons contractor Lockheed Martin canceled its planned layoff warnings after the White House issued a memorandum stating that defense contractors do not need to comply with the WARN Act in advance of sequestration. The memo also offered to cover the costs associated with court battles if layoffs do occur as a result of sequestration and employees choose to sue. The WARN Act requires employers to notify employees at least 60 days in advance of layoffs. (10/1)

Human Spaceflight Changing Worldwide (Source: Aviation Week)
A journey of 1,000 parsecs begins with a single step. Before humans can explore the stars—or the Solar System—in person, we still must travel that first 100-km step through Earth's atmosphere. Now that the space shuttle is a museum piece, human access to low Earth orbit is down to two spacecraft—Russia's venerable Soyuz capsule, and China's new Soyuz-derived Shenzhou. Today Shenzhou is the most modern operational human spacecraft flying, and it is likely to remain so for at least five more years.

Work is underway around the world on new ways to orbit humans and keep them alive in space. At least seven different orbital human-spaceflight vehicles are in development—-most of them in the U.S.-—and other longer-term work is beginning to take shape in India, Europe and elsewhere. Not all of the vehicles in the computer-aided design (CAD) workstations today will fly, and some of those that manage to get off the ground once or twice won't be able to keep flying for lack of passengers.

As it struggles to replace the shuttle, NASA has set up a competition to hold down development costs and perhaps influence the per-seat price of astronaut travel. But the U.S. agency does not plan to use all of the competing vehicles once the commercial crew capability becomes operational. Beginning in fiscal 2014, the agency will need $830 million a year to meet its plan to fly humans in a commercial vehicle by the end of 2017. (10/2)

ATK Upgrades Reduce Assembly Time By 46 Percent (Source: ATK)
ATK and NASA held an event to highlight progress made in manufacturing the first ground test motor and cost-saving process upgrades for manufacturing the solid rocket booster for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). These changes have reduced assembly time by approximately 46 percent, saving millions of dollars in projected costs for the SLS system. ATK’s Value Stream Mapping (VSM) process, which is a company-wide business practice, allowed the employees to identify inefficient processes, procedures and requirements to help reach the target condition.

Through this process, ATK identified more than 400 changes and improvements, which NASA approved. Many of the process improvements identified through ATK’s VSM approach reduced the number of product moves and other redundant processes, limiting exposure and reducing the risk of anomalies during manufacturing. For example, in one area a segment was previously moved 47 times during manufacturing; the ATK teams were able to reduce those moves to seven, saving labor costs and improving reliability. (10/2)

LEA Nears Delayed Hypersonic Ground Test Milestone (Source: Aviation Week)
Full-scale wind tunnel tests of the LEA, the European hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle, are poised to get under way in France, setting the stage for the buildup to flight tests in Russia. Although details of the dual-mode ramjet powered vehicle project are increasingly difficult to ascertain, program officials confirm that it is ready for testing under Mach 6 flight conditions in the specially modified S4 wind tunnel. The LEA hypersonic test vehicle is then scheduled to be air-dropped from a Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 “Backfire-C” supersonic bomber. (9/27)

Why We Need a Supercomputer on the Moon (Source: WIRED)
It would be a mammoth technical undertaking, but a University of Southern California graduate student thinks there’s a very good reason for doing this: It would help alleviate a coming deep-space network traffic jam that’s had NASA scientists worried for several years now. Ouliang Chang floated his lunar supercomputer idea a few weeks ago at a space conference in Pasadena, California. The plan is to bury a massive machine in a deep dark crater, on the side of the moon that’s facing away from Earth and all of its electromagnetic chatter.

Nuclear-powered, it would process data for space missions and slingshot Earth’s Deep Space Network into a brand new moon-centric era. The Deep Space Network is a network of 13 giant antennas located in the U.S., Australia, and Spain that gather data and talk to spacecraft in, well, deep space. These space missions are already fighting for bandwidth on this overloaded network and most of the data has to get back to Earth for processing. With a lunar supercomputer, Chang says, that could change. (10/2)

Space Travel With a New Language in Tow (Source: University of Luxembourg)
On Friday 28 September, for the first time ever, Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES has allowed an Ariane 5 rocket to transport a TV satellite into space. Every single one of the programs used to operate the satellite was written in the new satellite language SPELL. The acronym stands for ”Satellite Procedure Execution Language & Library.” What we are talking about here is a new standard, which will help the many different programming languages that were previously used to operate satellites and their subsystems to be unified under one roof. (10/2)

The Asteroids-Mining Start-Up is Hiring “General Space Nuts” (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Planetary Resources, a start-up based in Washington that looks to mine near-Earth asteroids for raw materials, appears to be hiring interns starting next year. Yes, you heard that right: mining raw materials from things in space. The actual job posting says it best: “It may sound like science fiction, but it’s just science!”

Planetary Resources is backed by Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page and Hollywood director James Cameron. Like any technology start-up, it’s looking for top engineers and computer scientists. Among some of the others, Planetary Resources is hiring someone for flight software, and a “General Space Nut.” The description begins with, “Holler if you’re a Space Nut! (10/2)

Venus Atmosphere Curiously Cold (Source: Space Daily)
A European spacecraft has discovered a surprisingly cold region high in the atmosphere of Venus, usually thought of as blisteringly hot, astronomers said. The Venus Express orbiting spacecraft has uncovered a very chilly layer at temperatures of around minus 273 degrees Fahrenheit in the atmosphere 75 miles above the planet's surface, the European Space Agency reported from its Paris headquarters Monday. (10/1)

Public Invited to Last Shuttle Delivery (Source: CollectSpace)
October 2, 2012 — A month from today, NASA will make its final delivery of a space shuttle to become a museum display, and the public is invited to celebrate the journey. On Nov. 2, space shuttle Atlantis will be transported from NASA's Kennedy Space Center to the nearby visitor center. The 10 mile road trip will take about 11 hours, including a three hour stop to give the public a chance to walk around the spacecraft. (10/2)

Expedition 33 Prepares for SpaceX-1 Cargo Delivery (Source: NASA)
The Expedition 33 crew is getting ready for next week’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon capsule and its delivery of 1,000 pounds of cargo. Dragon’s launch on the SpaceX-1 mission is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 8:35 p.m. EDT with capture and berthing to the Harmony node planned two-and-half days later. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule successfully tested all nine of its Merlin engines on Sep. 29 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. SpaceX engineers are reviewing test data before a final “go-no go” for its mission to the International Space Station.  (10/2)

Rowling Space Ride: A Load of Old Hogwash! Or Should That Be Hogwarts? (Source: Virgin)
Amused to see that the Media Muggles have obviously been on the Butterbeer again. Wonderful author JK Rowling was apparently offered a trip to space by parties unknown for £2m - which she understandably turned down. As if by magic and maybe the wave or two of a wand, the story is now that the £2m spaceflight was offered by Virgin Galactic. Not true! Happy to confirm that all of our 550 future Virgin Galactic Astronauts have paid a small fraction of that amount and that if JK Rowling ever fancies joining us, not only would she be extremely welcome, but she’ll save almost £1.9m! (10/2)

Virginia Authority Readies ISS Cargo Launches from Wallops (Source: Spaceports)
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has handed over the newly constructed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to Orbital Sciences Corp. for the new Antares rocket booster. The new rocket is set to commence commercial cargo launches with the new Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station from Virginia's Eastern Shore.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) will be launching at least eight resupply missions to the International Space Station under terms of a newly-announced agreement with Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences. The NASA moon mission, known as LADEE, will launch from the spaceport in the summer of 2013. (9/28)

Budget Cuts Could Send NASA Reeling (Source: Crain's Cleveland Business)
NASA Glenn Research Center could lose more than 10% of its budget if the federal government falls off the “fiscal cliff.” NASA Glenn would need to cut roughly $70 million from its budget during fiscal 2013 — which begins today, Oct. 1 — if the government by the end of the current calendar year fails to pass a plan to cut the federal budget deficit. (10/1)

TPIS: The Space Leadership and Preservation Act of 2012 is NO Good (Source: Tea Party in Space)
Last Thursday Congressman Culberson (Texas), along with Congressmen Wolf (Virginia), Posey (Florida), and Smith (Texas) introduced the “Space Leadership and Preservation Act of 2012”. It was widely covered by my media outlets and overall, and in some cases, wildly praised. However, monumental legislation like this deserves scrutiny as often times, monumental legislation contains monumental errors.

The 13 page bill would change Title 51 – National and Commercial Space Programs -- which has been amended many times before. However, nothing has been proposed that is as radical as the bill put forward by the congressmen above. With Sequestration rapidly approaching and with NASA budget being reduced by $1.5 billion, it is the opinion of TEA Party in Space that this legislation would do much more harm and there is little good that could come from it. We therefore recommend all members of Congress oppose this bill.

In short, this bill would protect the institutional bureaucracy that has flowed hundreds of billions of dollars into Republican states and congressional districts since the creation of NASA and do nothing to grow, some would say regain, America’s leadership in space. Click here. (9/24)

SpaceX Plans Upgrades for Grasshopper 2.0 (Source: NewSpace Watch)
A SpaceX spokesperson says a second-generation Grasshopper test vehicle is in the works. Improvements will include lighter legs that fold up on the side of the rocket; a different engine bay; and a 50% increase in the vehicle's length. Editor's Note: A fully reusable first stage would require substantially more fuel than is currently carried aboard the Falcon-9, which may explain the increased length. (10/1)

NASA Awards Dynetics Contract to Help Develop Advanced Rocket Booster (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA has awarded three contracts, including one to Huntsville's Dynetics Inc., to develop new approaches for a later, bigger version of the heavy-lift rocket the space agency is developing now. The total value of the contracts is $137 million, and Dynetics' part is $73.3 million. NASA wants to up-size the heavy-lift rocket it is developing now at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center.

That rocket will be able to lift 70 metric tons, enough to get astronauts to the moon or several other locations in deep space. But to get to Mars or any of the really distant targets, NASA needs 130-metric-ton capability to carry the water, food, fuel and other gear the astronauts will need. It is that massive, later rocket the three companies are trying to figure out a way to lift.

Dynetics is proposing a modern version of the F-1 rocket that lifted the Saturn V off the Earth en route to the moon. "We know you need a lot of thrust," Dynetics Inc. Vice President Steve Cook said in July, "and if you want to do it affordably, we think you need a liquid (fueled motor). So, now you say, 'What engines do I have?'... Well, we've already done this before," Cook said to answer his own question. "You had 13 fully successful Apollo flights with never an in-flight failure of, guess what, the F-1 engine." (10/1)

NASA Awards Risk Reduction Contracts for Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Flight Global)
NASA has awarded three contracts for risk reduction on potential new boosters for the space launch system (SLS), the launch vehicle meant to launch a new wave of space exploration. Dynetics, which is cooperating with Rocketdyne to build a modernized version of the powerful F-1, will "demonstrate the use of modern manufacturing techniques" on portions of the rocket engine, including the power pack and cryogenics tanks.

ATK intends to bid an advanced solid rocket, and has won a contract to reduce risk on a variety of components, including the exhaust nozzles, avionics and propellant. Northrop Grumman has won a contract to demonstrate manufacturing techniques of a new fuel tank. While the companies have won risk reduction contracts, the award does not compel them to place a bid for the new engines, a contest scheduled to begin in 2015, nor does it exclude other potential bidders. The boosters are not scheduled to fly until 2021. (10/1)

"Hubble Psychology” Causing NASA Program Cost Overruns? (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Last week, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin released the results of an investigation that looked into why the U.S. space agency has had long-standing problems—-aka “challenges”—-in meeting its programs’ cost, schedule and performance goals. For instance, in 2009, it was estimated that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) would cost US $2.6 billion to develop and launch by 2014. At latest count, the tab has now ballooned to over $8 billion for development (not including $940 million contributed by international partners) and another $800 million for five years of operational costs.

The huge cost overrun on JWST—as well as many other projects—has not helped win the friends in Congress that NASA needs in order to maintain its funding in these lean times, to say the very least. The inspector general's report focuses on NASA’s culture of optimism, which Martin accepts “is essential to overcoming the extraordinary technological challenges inherent in the development of unique, first-of-their-kind space systems.” However, this optimism unchecked also "leads managers to overestimate their ability to overcome the risks inherent in delivering such projects within available funding constraints.”

Technical complexity is also identified in the report as a driver of poor cost and schedule estimates. It acknowledges that if you are working on something unprecedented, it is hard to be accurate in your estimates of how much the effort will take or its final cost. Making estimation even harder is that Congress keeps changing program funding, which often requires a program re-planning exercise and new technical approach. (10/1)

Orbital Sciences Begins Antares Operations at Virginia Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Space technology company Orbital Sciences is beginning on-pad operations of its rocket projects at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Virginia-based company says it’s getting ready for flight demonstrations of its Antares medium-class launch vehicle and Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft as part of a 1.9 billion NASA contract to deliver essential cargo to the International Space Station. The company said Monday it plans to test, launch and complete a demonstration mission over the next several months from the launch complex at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. (10/1)

Alabama, Colorado Delegations Go To Bat for ULA (Source: Space News)
A group of lawmakers from Alabama and Colorado is urging the U.S. Defense Department not to relax its standards for certifying new rockets to launch U.S. national security payloads. In a Sept. 21 letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the lawmakers said prospective new entrants into the lucrative Pentagon launch market have yet to demonstrate their readiness for the job.

“Newly developed space launch systems do not yet meet most government mission needs, have not flown any significant complex payloads, and are still aspiring to launch vehicles at a rate of one or more per year,” the representatives wrote. “These matters of performance, capacity, and a sequence of flights in sufficient number to prove reliability are essential to meeting national security space launch requirements."

"While new entrants may someday possess such a capability to compete, we must not put the payload and schedule of our national security space assets in jeopardy in a process that also requires the taxpayer to underwrite the development of rockets and engines which have not yet flown.” United Launch Alliance (ULA), a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture headquartered in Denver and with manufacturing operations in Alabama, is prime contractor on the program and as such has a virtual lock on that market. (10/1)

Rumors of Soyuz MetOp-B Launcher Anomolies Surface (Source: Space Safety)
On September 17, European weather satellite MetOp-B launched aboard a Soyuz-2.1a rocket with Fregat booster from Baikonour Cosmodrome. All seemed to go as plan, and ESA handed control of the satellite over to EUMETSAT for testing and operations a couple days later. But it seems MetOp-B’s arrival in its intended polar orbit entailed an element of luck, with unofficial reports surfacing that the Soyuz’s second and third stages cut off unexpectedly early.

Anatoly Zak of russianspaceweb.com quoted industry sources as saying that the stages cut off seconds earlier than planned possibly resulting from a command from SAZ, the Emergency Defense Mechanism. “SAZ monitors the performance of the propulsion system and can trigger its shutdown, if certain parameters indicate a possible emergency onboard, such as an explosion,” said Zak, citing unofficial sources. The mission was saved by the Fregat stage, which compensated for the shortened boost. (9/24)

Reentry Images Show Station Cargo-Carrier Breakup (Source: Space Safety)
As the third HTV, Kounotori, burned up in Earth’s atmosphere on September 14, i-Ball was watching. The spherical data recorder captured images during and after the supply vessel’s breakup and transferred them to Iridium before splashing down itself in the Pacific Ocean. The images as well as data gathered from the reentry are to be used for improving reentry prediction models and shielding technologies. Here is a first look at Kounotori’s last flight (9/20)

O'Keefe: On Plane Crash, Future of NASA and Budget Showdown (Source: Syracuse.com)
Two years ago, former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, currently chief executive officer of aerospace and defense giant EADS, survived a plane crash in Alaska that killed five people, including former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. O’Keefe talked with Glenn Coin about the state of NASA and the national budget, and the lessons he learned from that plane crash. Click here. (10/1)

Happy Birthday NASA! Here's What Might Have Happened If You Were Never Born (Source: The Atlantic)
Our space program almost ended up under the control of the Atomic Energy Committee and the precursor to DARPA. Before NASA became a sure thing, it was only one of several prospective bureaucracies that might have been put in charge of space exploration. And though I love our space agency, a couple of the other alternatives that the government considered may have been more exciting. Click here. (10/1)

Space Trash Considered for Space Gas (Source: Discovery)
When it comes to human spaceflight, what goes up does indeed need to come down, typically at significant expense on both legs of the journey. A team of NASA engineers and scientists thinks there is a better way -- turning all that trash into rocket gas and other useful items. "The goal is to make sure what you ship up in space you actually use," said chemist Paul Hintze, who oversees the Trash to Supply Gas project at KSC in Florida.

Hintze and colleagues are researching several different technologies for turning trash and other waste materials, including human waste, into products of value. Initially, the project focused on producing methane, which could be used for rocket fuel. The scope has since expanded to include oxygen and water, which can be used for life support, carbon dioxide, which could support plant growth, fuels for power systems, and other materials. Click here. (10/1)

ESA Director-General Favors Next Generation Ariane Rocket (Source: Space Safety)
The Director-General of the European Space Agency (ESA) says it is urgent and time for ESA’s 20 member governments to decide on the development of the next-generation Ariane rocket, irrespective of a decision to complete development of an upgraded Ariane 5 launcher. 

The question of whether to complete development of the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (ME) rocket or bypass Ariane 5 ME and begin immediate investment in full-scale development of Ariane 6 launch vehicle is a contentious one. The issue has been at the heart of European space policy for 20 years, and Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain’s weighing in on the side of a complete Ariane overhaul is likely to be just as contentious. (9/28)

The Increasing Rate of Asteroid Discovery (Source: Space Safety)
As we continue to discover new asteroids, we become more aware of the potential threat they pose to Earth.  Amateur skywatchers can now easily monitor near Earth asteroids, which seem to make their closest approaches at more frequent intervals all the time. Below, astronomer turned entrepreneur Scott Manley demonstrates the rate of discovery of these bodies from 1980 to today. Manley points out some of the patterns in those discoveries and the observational quirks that cause them. Click here. (9/26)

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