October 28, 2012

NewSpace Companies Visit Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach Campus (Source: SPACErePORT)
Officials from the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center will visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Daytona Beach campus this week to discuss the continuation and expansion of joint research programs. Next week, XCOR Aerospace will visit the campus to discuss engineering design projects that would benefit from the company's Lynx vehicle development. (10/28)

Why Shiloh Now? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Back in 1989, commercial spaceflight was new and the Air Force and NASA were skeptical of the state's plans to establish a spaceport authority. Today, commercial space is vital to NASA and Air Force plans, and they view the state as a key partner in making it successful. If SpaceX establishes a lower-cost alternative in Texas, Hawaii or Georgia, like Orbital hopes to do in Virginia, we'll ultimately see some government missions leaving Florida for those other sites, and the Cape might be relegated to supporting fewer and fewer launches with per-launch costs spiraling upward.

As with the NASA plan in 2008, I think the Shiloh concept will raise questions about why we couldn't instead use a retired Space Shuttle launch pad, or one of the old Air Force pads that already represent a public investment of billions of dollars. If nothing else, the coming Shiloh debate should force the Air Force and NASA to ask themselves: "Yeah, why are our existing facilities not competitive for this kind of activity?"

As far as public opposition goes, I think Shiloh might fare better than the further-south sites NASA considered in 2008. The Shuttle wasn't yet retired in 2008, so the community still hadn't felt the full economic impacts, and many were hopeful that the Shuttle program would be extended. Today they might put a little more weight on the economic considerations. (10/28)

Webb-McNamara: At the Heart of the Shiloh Debate (Source: SPACErePORT)
Back in 1963, NASA Administrator James Webb and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara reached an agreement that put the Air Force in charge of ensuring public safety for all launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. After some initial confusion, another agreement was reached a few months later to confirm NASA's responsibility for ground safety on KSC property. For the following 50 years, the Air Force has maintained and evolved the rules for flight safety at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Although go/no-go authority has rested with the Range Commander, the command structure that has managed the Range's rules and requlations--and much of its equipment--has been vested in other Air Force and DOD organizations, including Air Force Space Command, the Air Force Space & Missile Center, a multi-service Range Commanders Council, and a Major Range and Test Facility Base (MRTFB) organization. With so many cooks in the Eastern Range kitchen, NASA's new 21st Century Launch Complex program, with appropriated funding for commercial-launch upgrades at the Cape, has encountered difficulty in trying to improve Eastern Range systems.

If NASA were able to manage flight safety for missions from KSC launch pads--or if NASA could rely on the FAA to certify commercial launch safety at KSC, as would happen at Shiloh--perhaps LC-39 would become much more attractive as an alternative to Shiloh. At Shiloh, Space Florida hopes for an outright deed transfer from NASA, putting the property outside the purview of Webb-McNamara. It makes me wonder which would be easier, transferring 150 acres of NASA property to Florida, or ending the half-century old Webb-McNamara agreement. (10/28)

Spaceport Eyes Volusia Refuge Site (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
Frank DiBello would like to rocket Central Florida back to the lead in the worldwide space race, but first the Space Florida president must convince NASA to give up 150 acres of the 140,000 acres it owns in Volusia and Brevard counties for a commercial spaceport. The spaceport would benefit from a diverse local talent pool, including thousands who lost their jobs with the end of the space shuttle program, and educational institutions such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

It also could attract other lucrative space-related manufacturers and businesses, DiBello said, such as those involved in the assembly and manufacture of payloads being transported to space. A [new vertical-launch] commercial spaceport is going to be developed somewhere in the U.S., he said. "If we don't get this site, it will go somewhere else," he said. Dibello met with a small group of local officials on Wednesday, including Kent Sharples, president of the CEO Business Alliance.

"It's an exciting concept," Sharples said Friday. A strategically located, public/private facility could bring back space industry jobs lost over the past several years, he said. But first, the proposal has to clear bureaucratic and public relations hurdles, possibly even an act of Congress to get the land released from NASA ownership and Refuge management. At least twice before, supporters of a commercial spaceport have tried without success to get land from NASA. Click here. (10/28)

Launch-Pad Talk Focuses on Long-Gone Town (Source: Florida Today)
The Shiloh spaceport is not a sure thing: environmental concerns doomed two previous proposals to develop within the wildlife refuge, and some are bracing for another fight. The new state proposal hopes to succeed where the two before it failed. In 2008 (before the Shuttle retired), area residents packed public hearings to pan a NASA feasibility study that suggested two nearby locations for a multi-user launch complex.

Less well-remembered is a state-funded study that identified Shiloh as a finalist for a commercial spaceport in 1989, just as the state was establishing the authority that evolved into Space Florida. The governor and house speaker immediately yanked it from consideration, with the speaker calling the study sloppy. Some environmentalists and refuge supporters viewed the latest proposal just as skeptically.

But Space Florida and some who lined up against NASA in 2008 say the current situation is completely different and applies lessons learned from the past. Shiloh is far north of the NASA site that upset so many four years ago, and therefore is expected to have less impact on access to popular recreation areas. The state is now proposing to develop a fraction of the 12,000 acres it envisioned back in 1989. Click here. (10/28)

Massive Planets Might Escape Stellar Engulfment Largely Undiminished (Source: Scientific American)
Having your planet swallowed by a star is no fun. But some planets might be able to run the astrophysical gauntlet and make it through more or less intact. When a star comparable to or somewhat larger than the sun enters advanced age, it swells up into a red giant, expanding far beyond its original radius. In the process, the star’s ballooning atmosphere will consume any nearby planets—-such is the fate awaiting the planets of the inner solar system, Earth most likely included.

Mercury, Venus and Earth are all too small to endure engulfment, and will quickly spiral in toward the sun due to drag forces from the surrounding stellar atmosphere. Larger planets or substellar objects called brown dwarfs, however, can actually dispel the star’s bloated exterior and survive. But they may emerge somewhat worse for wear. The density of a star’s expanded atmosphere can strip away the outer layers of an orbiting planet, so what comes out may be very different from what went in. (10/24)

Energomash Turns a Profit (Source Parabolic Arc)
“We’re in the black, and we have really progressed!” The Executive Director of NPO Energomash, V.L. Solntsev, said this at a general meeting at which a summary report on the results of two years of work. He thanked the staff for the work and for their faith in the success of the company initiated change. The report included all activities of Energomash, including production of the RD-191 engine and tests of the RD-193. Work is being done to improve the energy efficiency of engines and to develop the new fuel acetyl.

This year, as in 2011, the plant will produce 17 engines: 7 RD-171Ms, 4 RD-180s, and 6 RD-191s. The number of tests increased from 16 in 2010 to a planned 40 in 2012. Energomash is a leading developer of rocket engine in the world, V.L. Solntsev said. (10/28)

Private SpaceX Capsule Lands After Historic Mission to Space Station (Source: Space.com)
NASA's first commercial cargo flight ended with a splash on Oct. 28, when the SpaceX Dragon capsule landed after a landmark mission to the International Space Station. The unmanned Dragon space capsule, built by the U.S. company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), splashed down into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California at 3:22 p.m. EDT, ending a three-week visit to the orbiting laboratory.

Dragon began its descent with a de-orbit burn at 2:28 p.m. EDT, after departing the station at 9:29 a.m. EDT as both spacecraft sailed 255 miles above Burma. The station's crew used the outpost's robotic arm to release the spacecraft. The Dragon capsule is returning hundreds of astronaut blood and urine samples amid the 1,673 pounds of experiments and gear loaded on board. Some of those samples have been waiting for more than a year. (10/28)

New Mexico Spaceport Relying On Legislation (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Do we debate the value of the Albuquerque Sunport? Or the Big I? Or the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach? Or the rail hubs of Kansas City and Chicago? They are all important landmarks – yet as I talk to my fellow New Mexicans I sense a real misunderstanding of the two emerging ports or gateways in our great state. For over 30 years, the state of New Mexico has been carefully planning and constructing these world-class ports. Of course, I am referring to Spaceport America and the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

In January 2013, as part of the next 60-day Legislative session, our elected leaders will consider the informed consent legislation for a second time. Our $209 million investment, as well as surrounding counties’ commitment to increase their gross receipts tax to support the Spaceport, depends on its support and passage. If our Spaceport Authority has the same tools as states like Texas, Florida, Virginia and Colorado, then it can effectively recruit tenants to New Mexico. If not, we run the risk of creating a permanent barrier to our promising gateway to space.

This would be a financial calamity of the highest order and can easily be avoided by every concerned citizen contacting their state representatives and requesting that the informed consent legislation be passed. Passage of this legislation does not “cost” taxpayers anything. It requires that individuals who venture into space acknowledge the risks and accept them as part of an exciting and unique experience. (10/28)

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