October 23, 2012

Georgia Spaceport Site Has Space History (Source: SPACErePORT)
The site being pursued in South Georgia for a spaceport includes an existing abandoned "Union Carbide" runway that would be augmented with a larger runway to accommodate the relocation of the St. Marys Airport. The property is alongside a river, a few miles upstream from the Kings Bay submarine naval base, and is said to be navigable for ships that would carry rocket stages. The closest major town is St. Marys, but the physical address is in Woodbine, Georgia.

The site was first developed by Thiokol Corp. (now ATK) in 1964 to test solid rocket motors being considered for NASA's Apollo moon rockets. (Aerojet, during this same period, developed a similar facility in South Florida, but NASA ultimately went with liquid engines for the Saturn rockets). The Georgia facility was later used by Thiokol for making flares, until a huge explosion there killed 29 and injured 50 others. The property was sold to Union Carbide in 1976, and then to Bayer for use as a pesticide plant. Here's a map. (10/23)

Navy Wants Georgia Airport Moved Over Security Concerns (Source: Florida Times-Union)
The U.S. Navy has advised the FAA of its desire to relocate the St. Marys Airport because of the safety and security risk the facility poses to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. Rear Adm. John C. Scorby, commander of the Navy’s Southeast Region, sent a letter to the FAA’s Southern Region renewing the Navy’s past expressions that the airport be relocated “to ensure safe and uninterrupted operations at this strategically critical installation.”

As he did in letters last week to the city of St. Marys, Scorby told the FAA that threats generated by operations at the airport “predate the transformative” Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Navy has said in other correspondence it had been concerned that airplane accidents on the base could disrupt security just as it was over seven skydivers landing on the base in the past three years, the most recent a pair on Aug. 12. (9/5)

Local Blog Follows South Texas Efforts to Attract SpaceX Pad (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
It is obvious that the "geographic advantage" of being closer to the Equator that has been hailed as giving South Texas an edge over its rivals (Florida and Puerto Rico) was a mirage. We have pointed out here that the last time we looked at the map, the location of the competing site in Puerto Rico is closer to the equator. In fact, Cape Canaveral, the other competitor, is less than three degrees in latitude above Brownsville, a negligible difference. So much for geographic advantage.

All that hoopla has been fueled by the rah-rah boys over at BEDC, members of the city commission, and Mayor Tony Martinez. City commissioner Jessica Tetrau-Kalifa even showed up dressed in matching SpaceX blue with her son in a darling SpaceX jumpsuit at the FAA hearing (read cheerleading session) held recently. It heartens us to see that some critical thinking has replaced the cheerleading in the local press. The geographic location mantra has been bandied about ever since BEDC unleashed their "Honk if you love SpaceX or be prepared to get run over" campaign on the local populace.

Any satellite launches SpaceX is contemplating would require some nifty engineering because the flight path of any launches from here will have to go over populated land masses. Can you guess which ones? How about Florida, our competition. And Cuba, too. Given that requirement, very few people think that the launches are possible, although SpaceX's Steven Davis – bless his heart – said that SpaceX engineers had the skill to "thread the needle" through the "Florida-Cuba" gate. Click here. (9/30)

Reaching for the Stars at Mojave Spaceport (Source: Aviation Week)
Two space access projects are making significant progress at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Stratolaunch Systems, a Paul Allen project, has officially opened its production facility - an 88,000 square foot site that will be used to build the enormous composite wing and fuselage sections of its proposed carrier aircraft. Not far away another large hangar building that will house the 385-ft span launcher aircraft is also nearing completion.

Just down the flight line Scaled Composites is also moving closer to the start of powered flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo with the installation of major elements of the rocket system, including the main oxidizer tank. Photographs released by Virgin Galactic on Oct. 19, show the large nitrous oxide tank being lowered into position in the center of the SS2. Click here. (10/23)

How Many Gen Xers Know Their Cosmic Address? (Source: SpaceRef)
Less than half of Generation X adults can identify our home in the universe, a spiral galaxy, according to a University of Michigan report. "Knowing your cosmic address is not a necessary job skill, but it is an important part of human knowledge about our universe and--to some extent--about ourselves," said Jon D. Miller, author of "The Generation X Report" and director of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 adults ages 37-40--the core of Generation X. The latest report examines the scientific literacy of Gen Xers about their location in the universe. Miller provided Generation X participants in the study with high-quality image of a spiral galaxy taken by the Hubble space telescope, and asked them to identify the image, first in an open-ended response and then by selecting from multiple choices.

Forty-three percent of the Gen Xers surveyed were able to provide a correct answer that indicated that they recognized the object as a galaxy similar to our own. Miller found that 53 percent of males correctly identified the image, compared with just 32 percent of females, and that the proportion who identified the image correctly rose steadily with education, from 21 percent who had less than a high school education to 63 percent of those with doctorates or professional degrees. (10/23)

US-Russian Crew Blasts Off for Space Station (Source: AP)
A Russian spacecraft blasted off into a clear Central Asian sky Tuesday, carrying a three-man crew on their way to the International Space Station. The Soyuz TMA-06M lifted off from the rolling steppes of Kazakhstan as scheduled Tuesday afternoon to deliver NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin to the orbiting station. (10/23)

Eight in 10 South Koreans Say Space Program Must Continue (Source: Yonhap)
More than eight out of every 10 South Koreans think the country's space program must continue regardless of the success or failure of an upcoming rocket launch. Out of those supporters, 30.3 percent said the reason is because a space program is closely related to the country's security, with the other 33.7 percent replying the country needs to be able to develop its own rocket thruster, according to the survey by Yonhap News Agency.

South Korea is set to launch its first space rocket, the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), on Friday, but the first-stage thruster of the two-stage rocket was built by Russia. The launch will be the third of its kind after the first two attempts in 2009 and 2010 ended in failures. Still, 76 percent of respondents are in favor of the ongoing space program, noting it has advanced the country's space technologies despite the two failed launches. (10/23)

Fading Skepticism of Commercial Spaceflight? (Source: Space Review)
In recent years, there's been considerable skepticism, healthy or otherwise, about the potential of commercial spaceflight, particularly as companies struggled to develop launch vehicles and spacecraft. Jeff Foust reports that there are signs that skepticism is starting to fade as commercial space companies achieve some successes. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2176/1 to view the article. (10/23)

Expensive, Difficult, and Dangerous (Source: Space Review)
Many people dismiss space ventures because of the cost and risk associated with them. However, as Greg Anderson notes, in the 19th century many felt the same way about traveling to California, yet the promises of riches from gold discoveries there was compelling enough for some to accept the risks and reshape history. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2175/1 to view the article. (10/23)

Which Way to Mars? (Source: Space Review)
Can the private sector raise the funds needed for human missions to Mars, as some peopose doing? Frank Stratford argues that any private sector effort for Mars exploration should take a more indirect, but also more sustainable approach. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2174/1 to view the article. (10/23)

Hampton/Langley Power Plant Wins Energy Award (Source: Daily Press)
The first thing you notice when you pull up to the Hampton/NASA Steam Plant off Wythe Creek Road is the smell. Plant manager John MacDonald jokes that he doesn't notice it; then he says, "That's the smell of money." It's also the smell of success: The 32-year-old facility, which converts 240 tons of trash every day into 1.6 million pounds of steam to help power NASA Langley Research Center, has won a 2012 Federal Energy and Water Management Award.

The award recognizes "outstanding contributions in the areas of energy efficiency, water conservation and the use of advanced and renewable energy technologies at federal facilities," according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which sponsors it. This is the first time Hampton and NASA Langley have won. The trash-to-steam plant is a long-standing partnership between the city and Langley, initiated both as a cost-effective means to generate steam for Langley's wind tunnel operations and better dispose of municipal garbage. (10/22)

Obama, Romney Camps Fighting Over U.S. Space Policy (Source: Huntsville Times)
Space policy is getting its 15 minutes as the presidential campaign heads toward the final weeks. Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan recently talked space in swing-state Florida, and the two campaign camps are swapping visions about where NASA has been and where it's going.

"The Obama administration came in and they inherited a plan for NASA from the Bush administration. They had a plan for space. They jettisoned that plan," Paul Ryan said. "They put it on, basically got rid of that plan. Now we have effectively no plan. We are not putting people in space anymore." We did inherit a program, but it was a mess, Obama's team replies. (10/22)

Space Finally Gets a Mention in Presidential Debate (Source: Space Policy Online)
It may only have been one word in an hour-and-a-half debate, but at least one of the two contenders to be the next President of the United States said it -- space. During the third and last presidential debate of the 2012 elections, President Obama mentioned the space program. Although the focus of the debate was foreign policy, both candidates repeatedly turned the discussion to domestic issues. 

Moderator Bob Schieffer asked Mitt Romney how he plans to pay for the increase in military spending he advocates. Romney answered that he would get rid of unnecessary programs and turn Medicaid over to the states and achieve a balanced budget in 8-10 years. President Obama responded by saying that Romney's numbers do not add up and that "We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space. That's exactly what our budget does, but it's driven by strategy..." That was it. No further discussion of the space program ensued. (10/23)

ATK Selected to Develop MegaFlex Solar Array Structure (Source: ATK)
ATK’s MegaFlex solar array was recently selected by NASA’s Space Technology Program under a Game Changing Technology competition for development of the promising lightweight and compact solar array structure. ATK received a $6.4 million contract for the MegaFlex development. MegaFlex, under development by ATK’s Space Components Division in Goleta, Calif., is designed specifically to meet the anticipated power demands of 350kW and higher, with very low mass and small stowed volume for future space exploration missions using solar electric propulsion. (10/15)

SwRI to Build Solar Observatory to Fly on XCOR’s Lynx (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has received funding from NASA to build a miniature, portable solar observatory for developing and testing innovative instrumentation in suborbital flight. The SwRI Solar Instrument Pointing Platform (SSIPP) will fly on new, commercial manned suborbital craft, such as XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft, to enable spaceborne science and instrument development at a fraction of the cost of unmanned sounding rockets.

SSIPP is a self-contained unit that is bolted in place of a passenger seat on the Lynx. In flight, it optically locks onto the Sun, providing steering feedback to the pilot and delivering a clean, stabilized view of the Sun to a small instrument mounted on an optical workbench inside the unit. (10/23)

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