October 30, 2012

42nd Space Congress Focuses on Spaceports (Source: SPACErePORT)
After decade-long hiatus, the Canaveral Council of Technical Societies will hold the 42nd Space Congress on December 7 at the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa. The agenda includes several presentations on spaceport-related topics. Click here for the preliminary program, and here for registration information. (10/30)

Interorbital Test Fires Rocket in Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On a calm clear high-desert October evening, Interorbital Systems’ NEPTUNE rocket series’ main engine roared to life in its first hot-firing test. The engine, the IOS GPRE 7.5KNTA (General Purpose Rocket Engine; 7,500lb-thrust; Nitric Acid; Turpentine; Ablative cooling), blasted a 22-foot (6.71-meter) plume of fire across Interorbital’s Mojave Spaceport test area, scorching the sand an additional 50 feet (15.24 meters) beyond the plume end. (10/30)

B612, Ball Aerospace Sign Agreement for Sentinel Imaging Sensors (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and the non-profit B612 Foundation have signed a contract for Ball to create prototype infrared imaging sensors for the Sentinel Mission, a deep space mission to protect Earth by providing early warning of threatening asteroids. Ball’s detector design characterization initiates the first phase of developing Sentinel’s 20-inch diameter, space-based infrared telescope. (10/30)

NASA, Air Force Haggling Over Cost Sharing on Engine Project (Source: Space News)
Negotiations on a proposal in which NASA and the U.S. Air Force would jointly fund an Aerojet-led propulsion project that could pave the way for a U.S. alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine are bogged down over cost sharing issues, according to government and industry officials.

The impasse centers on how much funding the Air Force would provide for tests Aerojet has proposed as part of a program aimed at upgrading NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) crew and cargo rocket. Aerojet is one of four companies NASA selected in July to work on liquid- and solid-fueled booster concepts meant to improve SLS’s lift capacity and affordability.

Having set aside $200 million for a 30-month SLS Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and Risk Reduction effort, NASA signed contracts with ATK, Dynetics, and Northrop Grumman. The combined value of the awards is $137.3 million. Conspicuously absent from the mix was Aerojet, one of the three main U.S. rocket propulsion providers. NASA spokeswoman Jennifer Stanfield confirmed Oct. 26 that Aerojet’s Advanced Booster award was still in negotiations. (10/26)

New Estimate on Satmex 5’s Operating Life Eases Pressure for Replacement (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Satmex of Mexico said satellite builder Boeing has revised upward its estimate of how much longer the Satmex 5 satellite can remain in orbit, giving Satmex more breathing room as it awaits the launch of the replacement Satmex 8. Satmex 8’s launch atop a Proton rocket from Kazakhstan is tentatively set for Dec. 28. This new date assumes that ILS and the Russian government are able to conduct the three launches now scheduled to occur before Satmex. (10/29)

Orion Crew to Spend Up To Four Days in Lunar Orbit (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The first crewed mission of NASA’s Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration era will send a crew of four on a short vacation into Lunar orbit in 2021. Exploration Mission -2 (EM-2) will be a key test of Orion’s life support systems, following a baseline path laid out by EM-1, the uncrewed debut of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion duo.

With NASA’s exploration plan still being worked – and likely to remain as such due to the uncertainty relating to the Presidential election process – even these two opening missions of the new heavy-lift SLS are subject to change. That may be a blessing in disguise, with the current opening salvo of NASA’s return to BEO exploration providing an uninspiring, highly expensive and near-unworkable approach for the program's ground support workforce.

That unattractive approach is partly to do with budget-restrictions, but also because NASA’s leadership continues to be pushed and pulled between opposing political forces that both saved the SLS plan from being mothballed under the FY11 budget proposal, then heavily delayed the actual go-ahead for SLS via additional trade studies. (10/30)

Is There Life Beyond Earth? 'I Think Absolutely,' Says NASA JPL Director (Source: The Atlantic)
Charles Elachi, Director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, doesn't hesitate when he's asked about life beyond earth. "Personally, I think absolutely," he said today at The Atlantic's Big Science Summit in San Jose, California. "We have the same laws of chemistry, physics. If there are any locations where there are the basic ingredients, there should be the basic ingredients for life."

One ingredient, of course, is water. On Mars, images from orbit show what looks like dried up drainage channels. Elachi compares them to the patterns you can see as you fly over Egypt's desert -- an imprint that marks where water once was. The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity found other hints of water on Mars as well. "We found rocks that have been modified by the presence of water," he said. Click here. (10/30)

The Space Race is On (Source: The Atlantic)
The Space Race -- both in terms of manned travel and remote sensing expeditions -- is as competitive now as during the days of Sputnik. Some new astronauts never leave the ground, but their remote probes travel hundreds of thousands of miles, sending back hi-res images and collecting terabytes of data. JPL Director Dr. Charles Elachi says that the Curiosity Mars Rover was the "equivalent of 18,000 Indy 500 race cars going at top speed, and in 17 minutes we had to land softly on the surface."

Needless to say, they stuck the landing, and for the last two months the human race has literally been driving over the surface of Mars. The mission has been closely monitored by scientists and millions of armchair enthusiasts following in realtime over the Internet. According to Elachi, "Our technology now is that effectively we can do almost everything robotically," and yet, we must not take people out of the equation. "Great countries don't have to do everything for science ... or for direct profit, but for the human spirit." Click here. (10/30)

Thanks, New York, for Taking Care of the Shuttle (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Look, I know it’s really a terrible thing to be struck by a hurricane, and I know the northeast is a mess right now. The last thing they’re worried about is some damage to a space shuttle. And I’m honestly very sorry for the people affected by Sandy. I grok hurricane misery. But for Houston, this photo really stings.

You may recall that Houston lost out on a bid to house a retired space shuttle some 18 months ago. Most of us understood that Florida, Washington D.C. (Smithsonian) and the West Coast were going to get a shuttle in the interests of geographical considerations.

What many could not understand is how New York, being located so close to Washington, D.C. and having tenuous ties to the space shuttle program, got one for display. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum won the space shuttle Enterprise, which had never flown in orbit. The middle of the country, which included Houston and a strong bid from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, got left out. (10/30)

30 Astronauts to be On Hand for Atlantis' Move to Visitor Complex (Source: Florida Today)
About 30 astronauts will lead the space shuttle Atlantis on the homestretch of its 9.8-mile journey Friday to its new home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Tim Macy, director of project development and construction for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which operates the Visitor Complex, said the astronaut appearance was just added to Friday’s event schedule.

Final preparations are under way for the daylong trip to the Visitor Complex from KSC Vehicle Assembly Building. Atlantis’ journey aboard a 76-wheeled Orbiter Transporter System vehicle will start at 6:30 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., with several planned stops along the way, including at Space Florida’s Exploration Park. More than 300 people are helping coordinate the move. (10/30)

SpaceX Florida Executive Leaves Company for Raytheon (Source: Florida Today)
Scott Henderson has taken a vice president position with Raytheon Co.’s Integrated Information Systems Division in Dallas. “It is my understanding that he got an offer he couldn’t refuse,” said SpaceX spokeswoman Katherine Nelson. “While we certainly will miss his contributions to SpaceX, we absolutely wish him all the best.” Henderson joined SpaceX in October 2009 as director of mission assurance and integration, not long before the first Falcon 9 launch from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

In addition to his mission assurance role, Henderson headed SpaceX’s external relations in Florida. In that role he was the company’s primary liaison between NASA, the Air Force and elected officials from the state. Editor's Note: Henderson built a positive rapport with local, state and federal officials throughout Florida and served as SpaceX's representative in many dealings with elected officials in Tallahassee. (10/30)

PC Magazine Honors NASA App as Editors' Choice (Source: SpaceRef.com)
The NASA App, developed by a small team of software engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center, has been selected by PC Magazine as an Editors' Choice among educational apps. The NASA App gathers the agency's online content, breaking news, image and video collections, news and image feeds, social media accounts, and more in one easy-to-use location that aids public access to science, technology and engineering discoveries. The NASA App supports many mobile platforms, including the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android phones and tablets. The NASA App currently has more than 10 million user installations and receives more than three million hits per day on average. (10/30)

Kennedy Space Center Inventions Available for Licensing (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Patent applications on several inventions developed at NASA Kennedy Space Center, have been filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and are available for licensing. The inventions have resulted from years of research and development at KSC, on topics that were identified years ago as being within the core R&D competency at KSC. Click here. (10/30)

Astronomy Clubs Eye Night Skies and an Uncertain Future (Source: Washington Post)
Who knows what might be out there? The darkening sky above Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington was star-speckled and seemingly endless. On this October night, it held the potential of seeing a flurry of shooting stars stream across its canvas.

Who knew who might come out here? Joe Morris, president of the National Capital Astronomers, came prepared for anyone. He had pieced together a squat, black reflector telescope with an 11-inch lens. Other members of the amateur astronomy club put together two more telescopes on the ground, eager for anyone to stop by for a glance.

They hoped the look might be the hook. Like many astronomy groups across the country, this club has seen its membership remain steady — but only steady. Amateur astronomy thrived in the Space Race era, but some worry that interest in the hobby is fading as its biggest enthusiasts begin to gray. (10/30)

Flying Blind: America’s Aging Weather Satellites (Source: TIME)
Things got dicey in the command centers of the GOES-East weather satellite on Sep. 23. Mission controllers with NASA and NOAA watched in alarm as the images being beamed down from 22,000 miles grew spotty and the stream of temperature and moisture readings became sputtery. GOES-East and its companion ship, GOES-West, hover over the two halves of the U.S. in orbits that match the rotation of the planet, keeping a fixed eye on events below. But GOES-East was now winking out — in the final month of a hurricane season that would give birth to an infant storm later to be known as Sandy.

It’s the money component — no surprise — that’s at the root of the current problem. Satellites are cheap by spacecraft standards — but that standard means at least a few hundred millions dollars apiece. Over the course of any one satellite’s lifespan, the overall price tag can rise to $1 billion. NASA’s entire annual budget for Earth sciences was $2 billion in 2002, but has fallen to less than $1.5 billion in the decade since. And while there are a collective 90 Earth-sensing instruments carried aboard the entirety of NASA’s weather-forecasting fleet, that number could fall to as few as 20 by 2020. (10/30)

Closest Asteroid in Recorded History to Pass Earth (Source: COSMOS)
An asteroid the size of a city block is due to come whizzing past Earth closer than any other of its size in recorded history in February next year, according to astronomers. The asteroid, referred to as 2012 DA14, has a diameter of approximately 45m and an estimated mass of 130,000 tons. It was discovered at the start of 2012 and is set to travel between the Earth and our geostationary communication satellites on Feb. 15.

Asteroid and comet researchers will be gathering at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, U.S., to watch the event, but experts say there is no chance of a collision – this time. Any asteroid likely to collide with Earth must have its composition and structure analysed so that it can be deflected, according to a statement from UCF. Click here.  

Editor's Note: @cosmos4u points out via Twitter that the COSMOS article, and the UCF statements it contains, are incorrect. He says eight known asteroids have come closer to Earth than the one highlighted in the article...as can plainly be seen here. (10/30)

SpaceWorks Taps L-3 Coleman Aerospace for Air-Launch System Testing (Source: SEI)
SpaceWorks Engineering has selected L-3 Coleman Aerospace of Orlando, Florida, to assist with the facilitation of a series of air drop tests for the Japanese Air Launch System Enabling Technology (ALSET) project. SpaceWorks is providing US-based program management for the project in support of a Japanese team led by Japan Space Systems, and including IHI Aerospace Co. ALSET is a Japanese government-funded project to examine air-launch orbital payload delivery systems and related technologies as a first step toward an operational commercial air launch system.

The operational system is planned to involve air launch of a multi-stage solid rocket from an existing large carrier aircraft (C-130 class) for delivery of small payloads on the order of 100 to 200 kilograms to low earth orbit. L-3 Coleman Aerospace will work with SpaceWorks to assist the Japanese team with drop test preparations and is responsible for the design and integration of an instrumentation subsystem to collect engineering data during the tests.

Coleman Aerospace has extensive experience with air drop programs, having served as a prime contractor for the single-stage Short Range Air Launch Target (SRALT), the two-stage Long Range Air Launch Target (LRALT), and the three-stage Enhanced Long Range Air Launch Target (E-LRALT). L-3 Coleman Aerospace also designed, built, integrated, and supported air drop tests of the NASA Jumbo Drop Test Vehicle (JDTV). (9/28)

Spaceflight Federation Welcomes UF Researcher to Suborbital Group (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul from the University of Florida to the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG). Dr. Paul has an extensive background in molecular genetics with a specific interest in the applications of space-based research to study adaptive responses in an environment that is outside of the subject’s terrestrial norm. She is currently a Research Associate Professor in the University of Florida’s Genetics Institute.

Dr. Paul will be replacing Dr. Erika Wagner who has stepped down after a 3-year term on SARG. SARG’s Chair, Dr. Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, remarked, "Ann-Lisa has broad experience in space-based research in the life sciences area, and her enthusiasm is evident.  I truly look forward to working with her in furthering the research and education potential of these important platforms for science.” (10/29)

Enterprise Space Shuttle Exhibit Collapses in Storm (Source: CNN)
The Enterprise is on display on the deck of the Intrepid aircraft carrier, which has been converted into an aviation museum on the west side of Manhattan. A watchful blogger says the Enterprise is usually in a bubble-like structure, which was fine yesterday. She says there was a lot of wind overnight and her apartment was creaking and swaying throughout the night. The bubble enclosure is now gone, leaving Enterprise exposed, with damage clearly visible on the vehicle's tail. Click here. (10/30)

NASA's Huge SLS Rocket Could Send Missions Far Beyond Mars (Source: Space.com)
NASA is contemplating space journeys far beyond a near-Earth asteroid, the moon or Mars for its new heavy-lift rocket. The Space Launch System (SLS) could support an unmanned flyby mission to Pluto's Charon, sample return missions to Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's Titan, or a sample-gathering flight through Jupiter's atmosphere or the ice water jets of Saturn's Enceladus — all are said to be possible with the 286,000-pound (130,000 kilograms) launch capabilities of the Space Launch System.

The first launch of SLS is planned for 2017, but it will not have an upper stage and will be able to put only 154,000 pounds (70,000 kg) into low-Earth orbit. Beginning in 2022, however, the rocket is expected to have more powerful boosters and an upper stage to give it an ability to deliver 286,000 pounds to Earth orbit. The SLS nose-cone fairing that will have a diameter of about 30 feet (10 meters), giving it a useful payload volume of about 38,846 cubic feet (1,100 cubic meters). The rocket itself has a diameter of about 25 feet (8.4 meters).

It is this combination of a very large lift capability and nose-cone volume that is expected to enable ambitious missions such as sample return from the outer planets. "Most of the science community hasn't thought beyond current lift capability. Scientists haven't thought about what mass and volume they need to use," said Kenneth Bruce Morris. Because of the SLS payload capability, future science spacecraft will be able to carry large propulsion systems and more fuel, enabling them to reduce their mission time and carry more instruments. (10/30)

Volusia County Officials Should Support Shiloh Launch Site (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Volusia County leaders need to get behind a plan by Space Florida to free up 150 acres near Oak Hill for a commercial spaceport. The proposal — still in the early stages — would put a launch site in Volusia County, on National Wildlife Refuge property currently owned by NASA Kennedy Space Center. The plan could boost Volusia County's space tourism business. It would provide valuable aerospace employment in a region known for it — and one hurt by the retirement of NASA's space shuttle program.

This is an opportunity in a county that is slowly generating new jobs to replace jobs lost as NASA's manned space program evolves over the next decade or two. Volusia County has Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's research park on 140 acres that will likely attract all kinds of aviation and aerospace companies. Embry-Riddle is also developing NextGen, the new air-traffic technology, at the Daytona Beach International Airport. The technology will replace current land-based technology with satellite-based navigation systems.

This is an opportunity to expand the aerospace business in Volusia County. Local officials, the congressional delegation and the business community need to get behind the proposal. The time has come for Volusia County to have an even larger role in the space industry. It's time to launch, not time to hesitate. Click here. (10/30)

Europe Hears SpaceX’s Footsteps as it Debates Ariane 5′s Future (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Space officials in Europe are deeply divided over the future of the Ariane 5 rocket as they face competition from other national programs and companies such as SpaceX. Speaking at a recent roundtable, Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall identified the two main threats to Europe’s launch vehicle business: The first, he said, is the nonmarket economies of Russia, China and India, all of which either have or are developing rockets to compete with Arianespace’s fleet of vehicles.

The second threat, he said, comes from “a couple of guys in a garage in Silicon Valley who start with a blank sheet of paper and come up with a brilliant idea.” Unfortunately for Le Gall, there is no consensus among European space officials about how to meet these threats as an ESA ministerial meeting looms at the end of November.

The German government favors developing the Ariane 5 ME (Midlife Evolution), which would upgrade the payload capacity of the existing rocket that currently launches two communications satellites at once. The upgrades would allow the rocket to accommodate the growing size of these satellites. Meanwhile, the French government favors Ariane 6, a new modular rocket that could be adapted to a number of payloads and be less costly to operate.  This position is supported by the Italians. (10/30)

First Outing for SpaceX (Source: New York Times)
The first commercial spacecraft to carry cargo to the International Space Station splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, completing a three-week mission that was mostly successful though far from flawless. A small California technology company, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, launched its cargo-carrying capsule atop its Falcon 9 rocket on Oct. 7 and almost immediately encountered a problem when one of the rocket’s nine engines shut down shortly after liftoff.

That mishap did not prevent the cargo from reaching the station, but it did make it impossible to place a secondary payload, a prototype communications satellite, into the proper orbit. The satellite’s owner, Orbcomm, said it had achieved some useful test results before the satellite fell out of orbit and burned up in the atmosphere, so it was not a total failure. The company says it plans to launch more satellites aboard SpaceX rockets in the future.

NASA was clearly pleased with the mission. Since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet last year, the agency has relied primarily on Russia to send cargo and astronauts up the space station and back. Now NASA is trying to turn over the routine tasks of carrying cargo — and eventually, astronauts — to the space station while it focuses its human spaceflight program on exploration of the inner solar system. (10/29)

SpaceX Makes Deal to Keep Headquarters in Hawthorne Through 2022 (Source: Daily Breeze)
Hawthorne will be able to hold onto its most prominent business for at least the next decade under a new deal with SpaceX. SpaceX agreed to stay in its 1-million-square-foot headquarters building through 2022 as long as the city reduces certain taxes on the business as promised.

The deal includes a $260,000 cap on annual business license fees, which are calculated based on gross receipts - meaning that the more revenue SpaceX makes, the more fees it would have to pay. This agreement will allow SpaceX to maintain a flat tax rate as it gets larger.

Additionally, if SpaceX chooses to expand its facilities in the city, fees for planning and building will be dramatically reduced by 75 percent of what is normally charged. City officials, aware that officials in Florida and Texas were trying to woo the emerging rocket company, enthusiastically backed the deal in a unanimous City Council vote last week. (10/29)

NASA Centers Work on Satellite Servicing Technologies (Source: Parabolic Arc)
With satellites playing increasingly important roles in everyday life, NASA is developing the technology to build Earth-orbiting, roving “service stations” capable of extending the life of these spacecraft. Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are assisting the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in developing the concept for bringing a high-technology gas pump, robotic mechanic and tow truck to satellites in space.

There are 149 government-owned spacecraft and 275 commercial satellites currently in geosynchronous Earth orbit, or GEO, around the Earth. Placed 22,300 miles above the Earth, these satellites play key roles in communications, science, defense and weather monitoring. GEO permits these spacecraft essentially to stay over the same point, allowing for constant coverage of a designated position. This is crucial for satellites relaying meteorology and television signals covering specific portions of the globe.

According to Tom Aranyos, technical integration manager in NASA’s Fluids and Propulsion Division at Kennedy, engineers at the Florida spaceport are supporting the hypergolic propellant refueling portion of the Goddard-led study examining how free-flying servicing spacecraft could expand options in orbit for government and commercial satellite owners. Click here. (10/30)

In Billions of Years, Aliens Will Find These Photos in a Dead Satellite (Source: WIRED)
Of all the images that have ever been made, would you be able to select just 100 to represent our species and human achievement? Trevor Paglen’s Last Pictures is a project to do not only that, but also launch those images into geosynchronous orbit around Earth – all so that long after humans are gone, any space-wanderer will be able to fathom what humanity was all about.

The project is based on the idea that after billions of years, all signs of human civilization will have eroded away on Earth, but its satellites will still spin around the planet, making them the best bet for an indefinite time capsule. Click here. (10/30)

Japan Plans to Launch New Carrier Rocket in 2013 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Japan is planning to launch its new light-class Epsilon carrier rocket in summer 2013. JAXA's goal is to have an inexpensive rocket to launch compact low-cost satellites into orbit. It will replace the M-5 rocket, a similar vehicle that carried out seven successful space missions between 1997 and 2006. The three-stage solid-fuel launcher is designed to lift more than 2,600 pounds to low Earth orbit. The M-5 rocket could haul about 4,000 pounds to a similar orbit. (10/30)

Mars Rover Gets Instructions Daily from NASA Via a Network of Antennae (Source: Washington Post)
We live in a chaos of electromagnetic energy. Visible, infrared and ultraviolet light courses omnidirectionally from the sun. A fraction of it bathes our planet, while some bounces off other planets, moons, comets and meteoroids. The visible light from stars up to 4,000 light-years away can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. With instruments, astronomers can detect gamma rays from stars 13 billion light-years away. Radio waves from remote galaxies help Earth’s official timekeepers monitor our planet’s path around the sun.

Once per day, a minuscule stream of radio waves joins this cacophony, making the 13.8-minute trip from an antenna on Earth to an SUV-size machine parked on the surface of Mars. Those short-lived waves represent our way — our only way — of communicating with Curiosity, the rover that NASA landed on Mars in August. How, exactly, does information flow between NASA and its correspondent on Mars? Earthbound engineers exchange messages with Curiosity on a set daily schedule. Click here. (10/30)

Lack of New Mexico Law Could Hurt Spaceport America (Source: KRWG)
In the race for capturing the commercial space flight industry, New Mexico is far ahead of other states. But some people in the industry say the state could throw it all away unless the legislature passes an important piece of legislation. This simulated commercial spaceflight has people from all over the world looking for their chance to takeoff, and New Mexico is leading the way with the nation’s first commercial space port, Spaceport America. While there is some worry about the spaceport’s remoteness from a large population center, Mark Butler of Virgin Galactic says New Mexico is a prime location.

Even though he says the location is good, proponents say state law needs to change. “A concern that companies have, before anyone takes one of these suborbital spacecraft’s into orbit, is the lack of law in New Mexico that would limit their liability.” If there is an accident on a space flight the state does have an informed consent law which protects the major operators, like Virgin Galactic, from being sued. But other companies are not protected. (10/30)

Former New Mexico Governor Working for California Spaceport (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Former Gov. Bill Richardson will be going to work for a California spaceport to help push lawmakers there for an expanded “informed consent” law protecting manufacturers and suppliers of private spacecraft from most civil lawsuits. Stuart Witt, executive director of the Mojave Air and Space Port, confirmed Monday that Richardson has been hired as a consultant. Terms of his deal will be made public Wednesday when the spaceport’s governing authority reviews the contract. (10/30)

Virgin Eyes WhiteKnightTwo for Zero-g Parabolic Flights (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic, which plans to offer suborbital space trips aboard the air-launched SpaceShipTwo, is looking into offering zero-gravity parabola flights aboard the carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo. The twin-boomed, four-engine aircraft, designed and manufactured by Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., could carry a total of 14 passengers for zero-gravity flights — six in the right boom and eight in the left, said Virgin Galactic lead pilot David Mackay.

The Federal Aviation Administration, however, may have other ideas. “Both (SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo) were designed under a certain set of rules and regulations for space launch activities. To actually launch White Knight just purely for passenger training for zero-g experience or high-g experience, the thinking is that the FAA would probably want it to operate under a different set of rules and regulations. That might be difficult, but we’re still working on that,” Mackay said. (10/26)

NASA Unconcerned About Possible SpaceX Cargo Delivery Slip (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA says operations aboard the International Space Station should not be affected if the SpaceX CRS-2 cargo delivery mission currently slated for January slips as a result of the ongoing investigation into the first-stage engine loss that occurred on the Oct. 7 CRS-1 mission. The supply cache delivered to the station in early to mid-2011 by the now-retired space shuttle placed the six-person orbiting science lab on a firm footing well into 2013, according to Mike Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager.

“The launch date itself, in January, is not really critical to the program from a supply standpoint,” Suffredini said. “So we have some flexibility.” The CRS-1 Dragon capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 250 mi. west of Baja, Calif., on Oct.  28 at 3:22 p.m. EDT, providing a U.S. commercial cargo supply option to help replace the capability lost with the July 2011 shuttle retirement. (10/29)

No comments: