October 24, 2012

Boeing Reports Third-Quarter Results (Source: Reuters)
Boeing reported third-quarter net income of $1.0 billion on continued strong core performance and revenue of $20 billion. Increased earnings at Commercial Airplanes and Defense, Space & Security were more than offset by higher pension expense of $194 million. Defense revenue fell 4 percent $7.8 billion, but margins widened to 10.5 percent from 10 percent. Those shifts reflected contraction of defense spending - a growing trend as the United States and Europe cut budgets - but also showed Boeing's ability to be "very aggressive" in cutting costs. (10/24)

Germany Eyes Swift Purchase of EADS Shares (Source: Reuters)
Germany is rushing to purchase a stake in EADS by year-end, fearful that the owner of the shares, carmaker Daimler, could unload them on the open market and hurt Berlin's influence in the aerospace group, a government document obtained by Reuters showed. In a paper sent to the budget committee of Germany's lower house of parliament and dated October 23, the economy ministry warned that Berlin risked losing out to France in its quest for equal control over EADS. (10/24)

Lockheed, Northrop and Boeing Geat Forecasts, GD Misses (Source: Reuters)
Three of the biggest U.S. weapons makers beat third-quarter earnings forecasts on Wednesday and raised their guidance for the full year, although the specter of additional U.S. defense budget cuts continued to cloud the industry's outlook for 2013. Lockheed Martin, Boeing's defense division and Northrop Grumman reported higher earnings and strong margins despite weakening sales. Northrop Grumman Corp reported a lower quarterly profit, mainly due to a $66 million fall in net pension income, but the company raised its full-year earnings forecast.

General Dynamics missed Wall Street earnings forecasts, mainly due to a $25 million charge to revalue its inventory of ruggedized computers, or computers designed to operate in harsh environments, but kept its guidance for full-year earnings at roughly the same level, which appeared to reassure investors. General Dynamics, which builds warships, ground combat vehicles and business jets, said third-quarter earnings slid 8 percent as margins fell. (10/24)

Lockheed Boosts 2012 Profit Forecast, Sees Sales Decline (Source Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, said third-quarter profit rose 9.3 percent and raised its full-year profit forecast. The company also projected a decline in 2013 sales. Net income from continuing operations for the quarter rose to $727 million, from $665 million a year earlier. Sales declined 2.1 percent to $11.9 billion. (10/24)

Japan Wants Space Plane or Capsule by 2022 (Source: Space.com)
Japan hopes to be launching astronauts aboard a manned capsule or space plane by 2022, and the nation is also eyeing point-to-point suborbital transportation over the longer haul. The capsule or mini-shuttle — which may resemble Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser space plane — would each accommodate a crew of three and carry up to 880 pounds (400 kilograms) of cargo, officials with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said this month.

The mini-shuttle would weigh 26,400 pounds (11,975 kg) and land at one of five suitable runways worldwide. Because a launch abort from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center would mean a Pacific Ocean landing, the space plane would also have to be able to cope with the sea. JAXA is considering two different versions of the capsule, which would have a similar internal volume to SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. The 15,400-pound (6,985 kg) variant employs parachutes, while the 19,800-pound (8,981 kg) model uses a more maneuverable parafoil for greater landing accuracy to within a 1.9-mile (3 kilometers) radius. (10/24)

Amazing Photo Captures 84 Million Stars in Our Galaxy (Source: Space.com)
Astronomers have catalogued 84 million stars at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy using an enormous cosmic photo snapped by a telescope in Chile, a view that is billed as the largest survey ever of the stars in our galaxy's core. The staggering 9-gigapixel picture was created with data gathered by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), an instrument at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. The zoomable image is so large that it would measure 30 feet long by 23 feet tall (9 by 7 meters) if printed with the resolution of a typical book. Click here. (10/24)

Space Solar Power Looks For Shortcuts (Source: Aviation Week)
As commercial space transportation companies make their first tentative steps toward a low-Earth-orbit economy, looking for the killer app in microgravity that will make them rich, an almost limitless supply of wealth streams continuously through the Solar System, showing up at Cape Canaveral and Wallops Island, Va., and the wide open spaces of Mojave, Calif., every day at sunrise.

Advocates of space solar power (SSP) continue to refine their ideas for harnessing the Sun's energy, beaming it to Earth and plugging it into the power grid. The benefits are obvious—a clean source of energy that can power the planet's infrastructure without relying on the dwindling fossil reserves that drive the often-savage global economy we have today. Less obvious are the obstacles, but papers presented at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress indicate some very good minds are at work on the problems, with some very interesting results. Click here. (10/22)

How to see Atlantis' Last Move at KSC (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
On Nov. 2, the Atlantis space shuttle will roll to its new permanent home at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which is offering two ticket packages for the event. The Explorer Package includes a trip to Exploration Park, where Atlantis will be seen “in the round.” It will be a festival setting there with additional space-exploration exhibits and astronauts on hand. There will be activitities there from 10 a.m. to 3  p.m., and the shuttle is expected to arrive there from the Vehicle Assembly Building around noon.

The shuttle will travel up State Road 405 to its KSC home, where buyers of the Rollover Package can watch the final leg of the trip and the grand finale fireworks.  Atlantis is set to arrive at the visitor complex at 6 p.m., with fireworks scheduled at 7 p.m. The $100 million Atlantis exhibit is under construction and set to open to the public in July. (10/24)

NASA Selects Early Stage Innovation Proposals From 10 Universities (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has selected 10 university-led proposals for study of innovative, early-stage space technologies designed to improve shielding from space radiation, spacecraft thermal management and optical systems. The 1-year grants are worth approximately $250,000 each, with an additional year of research possible. Editor's Note: None are from Florida universities. :-( (10/24)

China Makes Progress in Spaceflight Research (Source: Xinhua)
China has made breakthroughs in researching spaceflight dynamics, a top scientist said. Progress has been made in spaceflight trajectory computation and analysis, orbital tracking, telemetry and command technologies for deep space probes and spaceflight planning and control, said Tang Geshi, director of the Science and Technology of Aerospace Flight Dynamics Laboratory. The lab is a key research station established in March with over 50 researchers. (10/24)

Transactions Push United Technologies' Q3 Profits Higher (Source: Bloomberg)
United Technologies saw its net income rise 6.9% in the third quarter, propelled by its purchase of Goodrich and part of International Aero Engines. The Goodrich purchase will continue to boost United Technologies' profit next year as well, the company says. In the third quarter, the company reported net income of $1.42 billion, or $1.56 a share, compared with $1.32 billion, or $1.47, a year earlier. (10/23)

NASA Selects Ohio Rocket Club for Contract (Source: Evening Leader)
Students in the Minster Rocket Club in Ohio have been chosen by NASA for a rocket initiative that will hone the students' rocketry skills and provide NASA will a rocket capable of launching a mile up, conduct experiments and transmit data as it does so. The students made the cut for the Student Launch Initiative after performing well in the spring's Team America Rocketry Challenge. (10/22)

Robotic Servicing Seen As Beneficial For Human Exploration (Source: Aviation Week)
Work underway at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on ways to service satellites in Earth orbit can help keep exploration crews alive much deeper into the Solar System, according to a manager of the effort. Ben Reed of Goddard’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office said the same kind of work pioneered on the Hubble Space Telescope can give deep-space human-exploration vehicles the level of reliability needed for missions to near-Earth objects and eventually Mars.

“I think that paradigm is going to serve us well as we expand into the Solar System, using servicing as a technique for that high system reliability,” he said. Goddard’s Robotic Refueling Mission, an external testbed delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) by the final space shuttle mission last year, and extensive ground testing of related satellite-servicing systems, is advancing the technology readiness level in all of the areas that would be needed for underway inspection, maintenance and repair of a spacecraft that has moved past the second Earth-Moon Lagrangian point (EML2). (10/23)

Stratolaunch Announces the Opening of the Production Facility at Mojave Spaceport (Source: SpaceRef)
The Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, a Paul G. Allen project, announced the opening of their production facility at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The energy efficient 88,000 square foot facility will be used to construct the composite sections of the wing and fuselage sections which will be assembled into the carrier aircraft.

The carrier aircraft will be used to position the rocket to its launch point. This facility paves the way forward for Stratolaunch to commence manufacturing of the numerous wing and fuselage assemblies within the calendar year. This is one of two facilities that will be built in Mojave to construct the carrier aircraft. The other facility, currently under construction, will house the carrier aircraft during assembly and test. (10/24)

Bermuda Tracking Site Provides Big Boost for Wallops Expendable Vehicle Launches (Source: NASA)
Following an agreement signed between NASA and Bermuda in early March 2012, range officials at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility have recently completed the successful deployment and check-out of a temporary mobile tracking station on Cooper’s Island, Bermuda. The successful deployment, completed in August, means NASA’s only launch range now offers the full compliment of range assets for expendable launch vehicle operations.

Along with cost savings, perhaps the biggest impact lies in range scheduling. “Owning, deploying, and controlling our own assets means control over scheduling,” said Steven Kremer, NASA Wallops deputy range manager. “It gives us higher confidence in promising range availability to our customers when they come to Wallops for services. In addition, our services offered from Bermuda will benefit other customers who launch from other ranges such as the Eastern Range in Florida.”

NASA’s mobile tracking station in Bermuda provides telemetry, radar, and command and control services. It will support the launch of rockets carrying supplies to the International Space Station or satellites to low-Earth orbit. During a typical ELV launch operation, about 10 range personnel will deploy to Bermuda to configure the mobile tracking station, conduct the operation, and then pack the systems for shipment back to Wallops. (10/23)

Orbital Developing ESPA-based Experiments Carrier (Source: NASA)
Orbital Sciences Corp. is developing an experimental spacecraft platform that can host multiple payloads in various orbits under a $32 million contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the company announced Oct. 24. The maneuverable platform is based on the Air Force-developed EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring, which enables the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets to carry multiple piggyback payloads. Orbital’s ESPA Augmented Geostationary Laboratory Experiment (EAGLE) Platform development contract runs through August 2017. (10/24)

MDA Gets Major Contract for DARPA’s Phoenix Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) has been selected as a key participant to support the DARPA Phoenix Program. MDA will provide a variety of servicing technologies and capabilities to the program, under multiple contracts to DARPA and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). These contracts will build on MDA’s world leading capabilities from its operations in both Canada and the U.S.

The goal of the DARPA Phoenix Program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively repurpose valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. The mission will use a robotic on-orbit servicer, and components launched alongside commercial satellites.

The program also hopes to transition its developing technologies into sustainable commercial applications, that in turn support U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) needs in the future, and MDA is under contract from DARPA to assist with defining this commercialization plan as well. (10/24)

NASA Dilemma: CASIS Can't Seem To Pull Together a Board of Directors (Source: SpaceRef)
It has been three months since a Juy 2012 Congressional hearing whereien NASA and CASIS said that the CASIS Board of Directors would be announced "shortly". It has been seven months since an exchange of memos between NASA and CASIS wherein the board of directors was listed by CASIS among its expected near term accomplishments.

Despite statements before Congress and in formal communications with NASA, CASIS has yet to announce the names of the members of its Board of Directors. Sources report that no one (White House, NASA, Congress, research community) especially likes the names that CASIS has floated. (10/24)

XCOR: Supersonic Plane To Fly Between NYC And Tokyo In 90 Minutes (Source: Huffington Post)
The private space-race is once again heating up. XCOR, a private rocket company, has released images of the Lynx, a supersonic aircraft that will fly super-rich passengers to space as early as 2014. The 45-minute round-trip flight will cost each passenger roughly $95,000, XCOR spokesman Bryan Campen said. The Lynx, Campen said, is a precursor to a supersonic plane that will transport passengers between New York and Tokyo in a mere 90 minutes.

Such a vehicle will take off and land on a runway like a conventional plane, but will fly outside the atmosphere for a portion of its journeys, 62 miles above earth. The first 90-minute commercial flights between the Big Apple and Tokyo should hit the market some time in the next 20 years, XCOR COO Andrew Nelson said. (10/23)

Rocket Explosion Raises Worries over Space Debris (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A Russian Breeze M rocket stage, left with loaded fuel tanks after an August launch failure, exploded in orbit Oct. 16, raising concerns of the U.S. military, NASA and global satellite operators on the lookout for collision threats from hundreds of new space debris fragments. The Breeze M stage violently disintegrated some time Oct. 16, dispersing debris in an arc around Earth encompassing orbital zones populated by the International Space Station and numerous communications, scientific, and military satellites. (10/24)

Big Savings Seen With Dual-Launch GPS Satellites (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. rocket makers are refining a concept to dual-launch the next generation of Global Positioning System satellites, a move that could save $50 million per satellite compared to the traditional practice of dedicating a single booster to loft each spacecraft separately. In the military space world, where some satellites can exceed $1 billion in cost, $50 million is not a lot of money. But the immense fiscal pressure being put on the Pentagon is compelling managers to consider pinching pennies wherever possible.

This, combined with a solid record of performance from the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V and Delta IV vehicles, is driving officials at the Pentagon to consider taking the risk of stacking two GPS III satellites atop a single booster. Satellite manufacturers note that the cost avoidance can add up—-a notional constellation of 30 could save $1.5 billion, they say.

GPS III, being developed by Lockheed Martin, is the ideal platform on which to try the dual-launch concept. Unlike other Pentagon satellite programs, the U.S. Air Force is buying GPS IIIs in large enough numbers to justify the non-recurring engineering for the new hardware and software for a dual launch. Air Force officials are considering this approach with satellites 9 and 10, though developers at ULA and Lockheed Martin suggest they could be ready to start with satellites 5 and 6. (10/24)

Manned Mars Missions Could Threaten Red Planet Life (source: Space.com)
Humanity has long dreamed of putting boots on Mars, but those boots have the potential to stomp all over any lifeforms that may exist on the Red Planet. A seething, swarming mass of 100 trillion microbes will accompany every astronaut who lands on Mars. This diverse "microbiome" has evolved with humans for eons and provides a number of services, from helping people digest their food to keeping pathogenic bacteria at bay.

While these microbes are intimately tied to humans, many of them will jump ship if transported to the Martian surface — with unknown consequences for a planet that may or may not host life of its own. "We have the responsibility to Mars, I think — even if it's just Martian microbes — not to kill them by the act of detecting them," said Cynthia Phillips of the SETI. "If you have human astronauts there," Phillips added, "there's no way to sterilize them. They're spewing out thousands of microbes every second. So it's a real problem." (10/24)

Flowing Water on Mars May Cause Seasonal Streaks: Study (Source: Space.com)
The tantalizing seasonal flows observed on Mars last year may indeed be caused by liquid water, a new study suggests. The melting and subsequent evaporation of frozen salty water could cause the intriguing dark streaks, researchers said. These lines, which were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, extend down some Martian slopes during warm months and fade when winter comes. (10/24)

Sequestration: Impact of President Obama's "It Will Not Happen" Assertion (Source: Space Policy Online)
President Obama's statement during Monday's presidential debate that the sequester "will not happen" surprised a lot of people. One of his aides quickly walked it back, saying that everyone believes it SHOULD not happen. Romney claims the President would cut military spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years through a combination of sequestration and other spending cuts. Sequestration alone would cut about $500 billion from defense spending (and about $500 billion from non-defense agencies like NASA and NOAA).

The blame game continues, with Republicans insisting that sequestration was the President's idea and the President insisting it was Congress's idea. The fact of the matter is that it is part of the Budget Control Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. Sequestration was included in the law as a "poison pill" to motivate a special congressional "supercommittee" to find another way to cut the deficit. They failed a year ago. House Republicans reneged on the part of the agreement that called for cuts to defense spending while continuing to insist on the $1.2 trillion total in deficit reduction, making it a major issue in election-year politics.

Sequestration was expected to be a major component of whatever deal-cutting is needed by the end of the year to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a term that refers to a number of automatic economic changes that will occur unless Congress acts.   It includes the economic impacts of not only the sequester, but the expiring social security payroll tax holiday, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, and a laundry list of other expiring tax breaks that, if they all happen, could throw the country into turmoil. (10/24)

X-Ray Probe Catches a Bright Blast from Milky Way's Black Hole (Source: NBC)
For years, astronomers have known about the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, but these pictures from NASA's NuSTAR telescope show a rare view of the usually sleeping giant gobbling down a cosmic snack. "We got lucky to have captured an outburst from the black hole during our observing campaign," said Caltech's Fiona Harrison. "These data will help us better understand the gentle giant at the heart of our galaxy and why it sometimes flares up for a few hours and then returns to slumber." (10/23)

Germany To Push 2019 Moon Lander in Naples Next Month (Source: Space News)
A German-led European lunar lander and rover mission could be designed, built, launched and operated for six months on the lunar surface for 500 million euros ($650 million), according to the mission’s presumptive prime contractor, Astrium GmbH, said Oct. 23. Under a two-year contract to the European Space Agency (ESA) that ends in mid-November, an Astrium-led six-nation team has concluded Europe could place an 808-kilogram lander/rover package on the surface of the Moon in 2019. (10/24)

Future of European Lunar Lander to be Decided Soon (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
European space ministers are slated to decide next month whether to develop a German-led robotic lunar lander, a mission which could be launched in 2018 at a cost of $650 million, according to a study released Tuesday. The lunar lander project, long favored by Germany, is part of a package of missions the European Space Agency is proposing to its member states at a ministerial council meeting in November in Italy. Scheduled for launch in 2018 on a Soyuz rocket from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana, the lunar lander would settle to a rocket-assisted touchdown near the moon's south pole some time in 2019 for a six-month surface mission. (10/23)

Strap In! What It's Like to Fly on SpaceShipTwo (Source: Discovery)
While SpaceShipTwo builder Scaled Composites prepares the commercial spaceship for its first rocket-powered test flight, owner Virgin Galactic has been thinking about all the armchair astronauts lining up to finally test their space legs. Their fliers won't go far -- just 65 miles or so above the southern New Mexico launch site -- and they won't be gone long. The supersonic sprint beyond the atmosphere will last only a few minutes.

But Virgin Galactic is betting that the ride, albeit short, is sweet enough to warrant its $200,000 fare. As of last week, 545 people had put down deposits or paid the full fee to find out for themselves. So what will the experience be like? Here's a perspective from SpaceShipTwo lead pilot David Mackay.

After a three-day training program, passengers will leave Virgin's terminal at the newly built Spaceport America, located near Las Cruces, NM, and climb aboard SpaceShipTwo, which they'll find hanging beneath the twin-boomed White Knight carrier aircraft. The six-passenger, two-pilot vehicle is based on the prize-winning SpaceShipOne prototype, which now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution's Air & Space Museum. Click here. (10/23)

African Kids Reach for the Stars With Help of US Astronomer (Source: Space.com)
The beauty of space and the thrill of science have helped an American astronomer connect with children in Malawi, despite language and cultural barriers. Astronomer Gabriela Canalizo has spent seven consecutive summers teaching astronomy to kids ages five to 20 in an orphanage in the southeast African country. She brings a telescope and astronomy books, and she shows scientific videos of star clusters and galaxy collisions to the 220 children at Malawi's Passion Center for Children. She hopes her visits encourage the children to stay in school, and to get excited about science. (10/23)

Destination: Missing -- Comet Once Targeted by NASA Mission Vanished (Source: Scientific American)
In 2005, after NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft had completed its objective of slamming an impactor probe into the nucleus of Comet Tempel 1, mission scientists began plotting their next move. The spacecraft that had released the probe and documented its cometary collision was intact, with fuel to spare, leaving it well equipped to rendezvous with another comet in the inner solar system. Comets preserve some of the primordial materials from the early solar system, and the rare close look offers planetary scientists a glimpse of conditions that prevailed billions of years ago.

The prospect of visiting another comet without having to build and launch a new spacecraft—getting two missions for little more than the price of one—seemed too good to pass up. The only question: Where to? The best option, it seemed, was a comet called 85P/Boethin. The little-known object, named for its discoverer, Leo Boethin, a priest in the Philippines, would be drawing close to Earth in 2008. Boethin's timely orbit would provide an opportunity for NASA to visit another comet without having to fund the Deep Impact mission for more than a few additional years.

The only catch: Comet Boethin had not been sighted in almost 20 years. In the years leading up to 2008, when Boethin was to return once more, astronomers designing the extended Deep Impact mission, called EPOXI (Extrasolar Planet Observation and Deep Impact Extended Investigation), moved to locate the comet again. But despite a few promising leads, the trail went cold, and mission scientists opted to send Deep Impact to a backup target instead. (10/23)

NASA Wants One New 'Brain' for Two Rocket Engines (Source: AL.com)
How do you get a new heavy-lift rocket program off the ground with a "flat-line" development budget? One key for NASA is using a cache of 16 unused RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) to help power the first few flights. But the space agency says they'll need new "brains" to do the job, and developing that upgrade is one of the jobs being handled by engineers and contractors at Marshall Space Flight Center, where the new rocket is being developed.

NASA calls its new rocket the Space Launch System (SLS), a name that encompasses not only the booster but also the upper stage with the Orion crew capsule. The first version will be capable of lifting 70 metric tons of cargo to deep space, and the final version will lift as much as 130 tons. By comparison, the space shuttle could lift 24 metric tons into space, and the Apollo-era Saturn V, capable of supporting deep space flight, could lift 130 metric tons. Marshall engineers gave other SLS managers a tour of the developments in Huntsville so far on Oct. 17.

"The computer controlling the SSME was manufactured in the early '80s and many parts are now obsolete," Jeremy Richard, SLS Liquid Engines Office Subsystem manager, said in on Marshall's website. "While working on updating the technology, we discovered we could adapt the same controller being used by the new J-2X engine to the RS-25 engine, effectively streamlining the controller and resulting in a cost savings." (10/23)

Explorer's Club Offers Student Grants (Source: Explorer's Club)
The Explorers Club offers grants to students conducting individual scientific or exploration research projects through their respective schools with a supervising instructor. Your instructor must write a letter of support. We do not provide general scholarships for tuition. Our Youth Activity Fund for high school students and college undergraduates fosters a new generation of explorers dedicated to the advancement of scientific knowledge of the world.

Our Exploration Fund for graduate, post-graduate, doctorate and early career post-doctoral students provides grants in support of exploration and field research for those who are just beginning their research careers. Our awards typically range from $500 to $2500 US in each Fund. A few awards may be granted up to a $5000 award level. The deadline for 2013 applications is Nov. 1. Click here. (10/24)

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