October 6, 2012

More Evidence that Voyager has Exited the Solar System (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Something very, very interesting is happening with Voyager 1, the human probe that’s the very farthest from Earth. New data from the spacecraft indicate Voyager 1 may have exited the solar system for good. If true, this would mark a truly historic moment for the human race — sending a spacecraft beyond the edge of our home solar system. At last check, NASA scientists said they were not yet ready to officially declare that Voyager 1 had officially exited the solar system by crossing the heliopause.

To cross this boundary scientists say they would need to observe three things: 1) An increase in high-energy cosmic rays originating from outside our solar system; 2) A drop in charged particles emanating from the sun; 3) A change in the direction of the magnetic field. Click here. (10/5)

Earthrise Space Offers Details on Lunar X-Prize Bid (Source: SPACErePORT)
During a "Space Locals" event sponsored by the National Space Society's Space Coast chapter, Earthrise Space's Ruben Nunez provided some details on his not-for-profit company's efforts to win the Google Lunar X-Prize before the contest's end-of-2015 deadline. The company's Omega Envoy lander/rover system (built by ~25 students from UCF, Embry-Riddle, and FIT) could be launched as a secondary payload before the end of 2014 on one of two launch vehicles now under negotiation.

Earthrise Space has secured several corporate and university partners, and is the first U.S. Lunar X-Prize competitor to establish U.S. State Department ITAR credentials to allow collaborations with foreign partners (announcement coming soon). They plan to launch their mission from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, to secure a bonus $2 million prize offered by Space Florida.

They have acquired an impressive collection of machines and equipment to built its rover and lander prototypes in a facility near UCF in Orlando. They expect sometime in a year or two they'll grow out of their present facility and move to a facility on the Space Coast. Earthrise Space will host an Open House at their Orlando facility on Oct. 12 to show their progress (including their protyotype rover) and make one or two special announcements. Click here. (10/6)

SpaceX President Offers Details on Falcon/Dragon (Source: SPACErePORT)
During a pre-launch news conference with NASA at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Gwynne Shotwell said the company will be ready to fly crew within three years, with work required on a launch escape system, space suits, etc. NASA is working with three industry partners to establish a crewed flight capability by 2017. SpaceX's crewed missions will be primarily for NASA, though she mentioned the "ill-defined" potential for other customers, including Bigelow Aerospace. She said SpaceX's focus is not space tourism.

Shotwell said SpaceX continues to consider several potential alternative launch sites for Dragon, including in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Together with NASA officials, she also discussed the potential for this Dragon mission to fly ice cream treats to the Space Station crew, given the presence of an onboard freezer. SpaceX's competitor for ISS cargo launches is gearing up for missions from Virginia's spaceport on Wallops Island, but NASA doesn't expect Orbital's Antares/Cygnus flights to begin until the first quarter of 2013. (10/6)

Boeing Proposes Using Gas Clouds to Clear Space Debris (Source: Guzmag)
Boeing has filed a patent for a method of disposing of dead satellites and other debris orbiting the earth by hitting them with a puff of gas. The method, which is still at the conceptual stage, is designed to slow down satellites, forcing them to re-enter the atmosphere without sending up more space junk that itself will need disposing of.

The Boeing patent filed by inventor Michael Dunn suggests that the alternative is to use what is called “ballistic gas.” The idea is to send a small satellite into orbit containing a gas generator. This generator can be a tank of cryogenic gas, such as xenon or krypton, or a device designed to vaporize a heavy metal or some relatively heavy elements like fluorine, chlorine, bromine, or iodine. This gas would be released as a cloud in the same orbit as the debris, but traveling in the opposite direction.

The cloud wouldn't last very long, but long enough to hit the debris. By the time it hit, the gas would have expanded until it was almost a vacuum, so it wouldn't damage the debris. In fact, an astronaut caught in such a cloud probably wouldn't even notice it. However being hit by “almost” a vacuum at hypersonic speed is enough to slow down the debris and cause its orbit to decay until it hits the atmosphere. (10/6)

The House Anti-Science Committee (Source: Discover)
Not too long ago, I (and pretty much the whole internet) wrote about the ridiculous and honestly offensive statements made by Representative Todd Akin (R-MO). His knowledge – or really, the profound lack thereof – of female anatomy made him the laughing stock of the planet. He is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. That anyone could spew such obvious and awful nonsense about biology and anatomy and yet sit on the US Congress’s science committee is, simply put, an outrage.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is a creationist who sits on that same science committee. In late September, Rep. Broun made a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church’s Sportsman’s banquet, where he said: "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth...about 9,000 years old...created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says."

Sadly, that kind of antiscientific nonsense is de rigueur for a lot of folks these days, even ones who sit in Congress. But then, to close the deal, he goes on: "[The Bible] teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that. All Congresscritters, upon entering office, have to swear to uphold the Constitution, and this document is pretty clear about legislating religion. (10/6)

How To Steal The Space Shuttle: A Step-By-Step Guide (Source: Jalopnik)
Yesterday morning I was at the California Science Center's press conference outlining their plan to drag a massive spaceship across Los Angeles. It was one of those times where logistics can make even the most outlandish plans seem boring, as they went over schedules and road closures and the like. While they were describing the locations where Endeavour would be stopped for viewing or technical reasons, I realized that this was the most exposed this priceless spaceship will ever be. Which, of course, got me thinking. Could someone steal the Space Shuttle?

The LAPD officers in charge of the security portion of the massive moving project were there, but it was pretty clear their responsibilities had to do with keeping people and the city safe, not protecting the Shuttle from theft. I asked both officers if they thought, given Bond supervillian-levels of resources, it would be possible for someone to steal the shuttle. They made two mistakes in their answers. First mistake was that the first cop told me it was "impossible." The second mistake was that the other policeman told me "I won't say impossible." Now it sounds like a challenge. Click here. (10/6)

Delta Rocket Delivers Despite Engine Trouble (Source: Florida Today)
An unexpected propulsion problem during a Delta IV rocket launch earlier this week is raising questions about a potential delay in the upcoming launch of the U.S. military’s mini-shuttle spaceplane. Reduced thrust levels during the operation of the rocket’s second stage RL 10 engine did not prevent the Delta IV from delivering an advanced navigation satellite to its intended orbit. The Delta IV’s inertial guidance and flight control systems compensated for the lower thrust conditions. But even though the mission was “a complete success, ULA...will thoroughly investigate and implement appropriate actions,” ULA's Jim Sponnick said.

The company’s next launch –- an Atlas V rocket with the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle -- is scheduled to blast off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Oct. 25. The next Delta IV rocket launch, which will carry a military communications satellite, is slated to blast off from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 18. (10/6)

Reusable Orbital Flight Is Almost Here (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Even as SpaceX becomes the first private company to provide cargo delivery service to the International Space Station—a mission that could be furthered this weekend as the company launches its second trip to the ISS—it’s already at work on its next giant leap: a reusable orbital spaceship. Last month, SpaceX tested a "hopping" Falcon 9 rocket as part of its Grasshopper program.

It was a standard first stage with a single Merlin-1D engine in its tail instead of the usual 9, and landing legs added on. The hop was all of six feet, but was the first step in the company’s plan to give its boosters the ability to launch payloads into orbit and then land robotically so they can be refueled and launched again. Instead of plunging back to Earth and being destroyed as it does now after completing its part of the job, each of the Falcon 9’s two stages would fly back to Earth in a controlled maneuver, using reserve propellant to make a gentle touchdown on retractable legs.

Reusable orbital flight could bring airline-style operations beyond Earth. It’s all about reducing the very high cost of leaving the planet. Imagine throwing away an airliner every time you fly across the Atlantic and you get the idea of the current state of orbital transportation. (Spacecraft like the shuttles are reusable, but the rockets that launch them to orbit are not.) Each flight has to pay for an entire vehicle, putting the trip out of reach of all but government programs, big corporations, and the wealthiest individuals. (10/6)

The Second Age of Space Begins (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
Some may see the retirement of the Space Shuttles as a surrender to the exploration of space, but the residents of Doña Ana County know better. With the creation of Spaceport America, the first-ever purpose-built commercial spaceport, the future of the space industry will continue to move forward in the private sector. These new pioneers – such as Virgin Galactic, UP Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace and SpaceX – are continuing to the push the envelope to make spaceflight a reality for our generation and those to come.

“Spaceport America and southern NewMexico have the potential to be the crucible of the second space age,” said Aaron Prescott. “We have a choice whether or not we want to support and encourage this new industry to develop and grow here or not.” The only obstacle in the way of New Mexico’s path toward commercial spaceflight greatness is the wording of the state’s Informed Consent Act. While the original legislation was signed into law by Gov. Bill Richardson in 2010, it only protects operators – such as Virgin Galactic – that will fly passengers, leaving their supply chain of manufacturers completely unprotected from harmful litigation.

The commercial spaceflight industry can not only bring us tourism dollars to bolster our state’s coffers, but it can reinvigorate the manufacturing industry and create a series of high-wage technical jobs for the college graduates that often have to leave the state to find jobs in the field. “Passing this legislation in 2013 would really be a win-win for the state,” said Chamber President/CEO Bill Allen, “but it’s our job now to make sure that the Legislature sees that in the coming session.” (10/6)

Space Competitiveness Report: U.S. Still Tops but Lead is Shrinking (Source: Space News)
The United States remains the world’s dominant space power. Its position relative to its peers, however, has eroded steadily during the past five years in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive with the entrance of new players, according to a report released Oct. 3 by Futron Corp., a consulting firm based in Bethesda, Md.

In its fifth annual “2012 Space Competitiveness Index: A Comparative Analysis of How Countries Invest in and Benefit from Space Industry,” Futron assessed the relative strengths and weaknesses of government and commercial programs as well as the work force needed to support those endeavors. While many other countries are expanding space capabilities, the U.S. space program is in a period of “transition” and “uncertainty,” the report said.

That uncertainty stems, in part, from the White House’s decision to hand off to private companies the job of ferrying astronauts and cargo to low Earth orbit while NASA refocuses its efforts on developing technology to explore more distant targets including asteroids and Mars. In addition, it is unclear what impact legislation aimed at reducing the U.S. federal deficit will have on military and civil space programs. Click here. (10/5)

Editorial: America Must Strive Hard to Reclaim Place in Space Race (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In today's digital economy, American jobs will depend more on scientific research than they did in the 1950s. Government investment in space exploration —- and science generally —- has had substantial commercial payoffs. In the 1950s and through the early 1960s, NASA and the Air Force were the only buyers of semiconductor chips when they were first manufactured – until costs started dropping and private industry became interested. For that matter, nuclear technologies — so crucial to the space program, medical care and energy production — grew out of the defense program.

Now, as China prepares for the construction of space stations, moving one step closer to becoming an autonomous space power and rivaling the European Union, Russia and the United States, we need to stay strong. Investing in our own future —- and reclaiming our own preeminence in space exploration —- is an issue that we cannot sidestep or pretend doesn't exist. For space science goes to the heart and soul of America's heritage as a nation of inestimable possibilities. (10/6)

How SpaceX Will Keep the Space Station in Business (Source: WIRED)
The first launch of a new space era is scheduled to take place on Sunday night as SpaceX prepares to deliver its first NASA-contracted cargo load to the International Space Station. Sunday’s launch — known as Commercial Resupply Services-1 — will mark the first of 12 contracted flights for SpaceX, totaling $1.6 billion. Like the space startup’s previous launch and ISS test-docking from earlier this year, the company will use a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to deliver about 1,000 pounds to the ISS and bring back more than 1,200 pounds of research equipment and supplies.

Sunday’s scheduled launch is for 8:35 pm EDT. The company performed a static firing of the nine Merlin engines last Saturday, and on Tuesday went through final rehearsal with the entire vehicle being transported to the launch pad and lifted to its vertical positioning.

So far SpaceX has had two successful orbital flights with the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. Though the company reminds everybody that space travel is “incredibly complicated, from launch to recovery.” There was a technical setback before the launch for the demonstration flight in May, where a small mechanical failure within the turbo-pump feeding fuel to the engine caused the launch to be aborted less than one second before liftoff. The scrubbed first attempt was a reminder that there’s more than a few wires and a simple four-cylinder under the hood. (10/5)

The Craziest Things People Have Proposed Putting on the Moon (Source: WIRED)
You might be excused if, upon reading about a proposal to build a supercomputer on the moon, your first thought was, “Wasn’t there a Heinlein novel about this?” But the idea is real and a lunar supercomputer could serve some important functions, like processing space science data and helping to alleviate bandwidth problems for the current Deep Space Network. Though many obstacles stand in the way of such a project getting off the ground, it’s not the strangest thing that people have suggested we build on the moon.

It seems that many people in history have thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did that, but on the moon?” Here we've gathered some of the most outlandish, irrational, and occasionally insane ideas that people have proposed for the moon. You can vote for the one you'd most like to see actually built in a poll. Click here. (10/5)

Japan Asteroid Trip Will Star Upgraded Bouncing Robot (source: New Scientist)
Hayabusa 2, Japan's second mission to collect samples from an asteroid, is getting a MASCOT. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne and the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo announced this week that they have formalized a deal to send the German-built Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, on the mission, set to launch in 2014.

JAXA's original Hayabusa probe was a success – but only just. Technical challenges ranging from failed engines to lost communications meant that the spacecraft returned home hobbled and late, bearing just a few precious pieces of the stony asteroid Itokawa. Hayabusa was meant to do so much more. A small jumping rover called MINERVA was supposed to collect data on the asteroid's temperature and surface variability, but it was released at the wrong time and drifted off into space. (10/5)

Launch of SES’s Astra 2F Reignites Frequency Dispute with Eutelsat (Source: Space News)
Europe’s two biggest satellite operators are fighting over rights to 500 megahertz of broadcast spectrum over Europe, with Eutelsat trying to hold on to the property and SES saying it will take ownership of it in October 2013. The issue has been on the back burner at both companies for several years but recently was revived with the launch of SES’s Astra 2F satellite, which was placed into orbit Sep. 28 and is expected to operate at 28.2 degrees east. (10/5)

Envisat Puts ESA in Unenviable Position (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) faces the uncomfortable choice of either actively removing its dead Envisat satellite from low Earth orbit or risk being held liable if Envisat damages another satellite, a member of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) said.

Because it elected to continue operating Envisat until it had too little fuel to be powered to a lower orbit, as international guidelines prescribe, ESA could be held liable for negligence, or even gross negligence, if Envisat or pieces of it damage an active satellite in the 100-plus years Envisat will remain in orbit, according to the IISL analysis. Martha Mejia-Kaiser said Envisat is a “ticking bomb” that poses an unusually large danger to a heavily populated corridor in polar orbit at 780 kilometers in altitude.

Launched in 2002, Envisat has a 26-meter cross section, weighs some 8,000 kilograms and, importantly, was not passivated before it suddenly went silent in April. Propellant remnants, still-charged batteries, residual gases and other stored energy only add to the danger posed by the satellite. (10/5)

Space Goose’s Nest Grows at Mojave Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Stratolaunch hangar continues to take shape at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. With the rear of the hangar assembled, beams are being put up for the front section which must be wide enough to accommodate a plane with a 385-foot wingspan. Stratolaunch will build the world’s largest aircraft from composite materials. It will use a smaller version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to air-launch satellites into orbit. The venture is being backed by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen. Click here. (10/5) http://www.parabolicarc.com/2012/10/05/space-gooses-nest-grows-in-the-mojave/

WhiteKnightTwo Hits the Century Mark (Source: Parabolic Arc)
“When building the world’s first commercial spaceline, you’ve gotta be safe. Yesterday, WhiteKnightTwo successfully completed her 100th test flight. We love our mothership!,” said the Virgin Galactic on its Facebook page. WhiteKnightTwo made a solo flight on Thursday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It was at least the third such flight within the past nine days.

The 100th flight took place on Oct. 4, the eighth anniversary of SpaceShipOne winning the Ansari X Prize and the 55th anniversary of Sputnik 1. No manned ship has been in suborbital space since that day in 2004. SpaceShipTwo is in the hangar being fitted with its engine. Captive tests followed by a powered flight are set by the end of the year. (10/5)

ATK ‘Circling Wagons’ After Commercial-Crew Defeat (Source: Aviation Week)
ATK Aerospace Systems and its partners have not given up on the Liberty launch vehicle they proposed as the next route to the International Space Station for NASA astronauts. NASA rejected the company's proposal as insufficiently detailed compared with the three it ultimately selected for Space Act agreements. But the Liberty partnership offered to spend “an order of magnitude” more of its own money on development than the competition, and it may use its deep pockets to continue the work on its own.

Ultimately the Liberty team might find itself launching some of the commercial crew vehicles that beat it out in NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) contest. “We are regrouping, circling the wagons, looking at what makes the most sense,” says Kent Rominger, a former space shuttle commander who is ATK's vice president for strategy and business development and the Liberty program manager. (10/1)

GPS Dual Launches Could Save $50 Million Per Satellite (Source: Aviation Week)
Roughly $50 million per satellite could be saved by boosting two Global Positioning System (GPS) III spacecraft using a single rocket, according to United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Lockheed Martin officials. Today, each GPS satellite is launched from a single Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The Air Force is planning to begin a “dual launch” program for GPS III starting with the ninth satellite, though ULA and Lockheed Martin officials say they could do it much sooner.

The team is studying how to safely encapsulate and eject two satellites from a single booster now with funding provided by the Air Force. Some questions include how to get the spacecraft from their transfer orbit into the final orbital slots. Options include boosting the performance of the satellites or developing a secondary vehicle for the transfer, says Tony Taliancich, director of the customer program office at ULA. (10/5)

Record-Breaking Baumgartner Skydive Postponed to Tuesday or Later (Source: Red Bull)
Felix Baumgartner has arrived at the launch site in Roswell, New Mexico, and has been informed by meteorologist Don Day that the launch of the mission to the edge of space will not take place on Monday as scheduled. It probably will move to Tuesday. (10/6)

Virgin Galactic Acquires Full Ownership of The Spaceship Company (Source: Virgin)
Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, has taken 100% ownership of its sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), by acquiring the 30% stake held by Scaled Composites (Scaled) since TSC’s formation under a joint venture with Virgin Galactic.

This acquisition marks the successful completion of a long-term strategy and signifies the end of the first phase of TSC’s development. During this development phase, TSC completed the build out of manufacturing and assembly facilities in Mojave, CA, established a specialized workforce and transitioned necessary assets from Scaled in order to begin building a commercial fleet of WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft and SpaceShipTwo (SS2) manned sub-orbital spacecraft for Virgin Galactic.

Scaled remains a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman and is planning the handover of the SS2 development program to Virgin Galactic, with Scaled remaining fully committed to the final portion of the WK2 and SS2 test flight programs prior to Virgin Galactic commencing commercial operations. (10/6)

Virginia's Wolf Plays Key Role in New Course for NASA (Source: Florida Today)
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) is a bit of a romantic when it comes to the space program. But now that U.S. astronauts ride Russian rockets to the International Space Station, a plan to return to the moon has been scrapped and a manned trip to Mars is at least 20 years away, Wolf, 73, believes NASA has lost its way. He cited famed astronauts Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell, who wrote an open letter in 2010 bemoaning the American program’s direction.

“Just talk to any former astronaut,” Wolf said during a recent interview. “I think they have a greater credibility than anybody else.” Unlike some other critics of NASA, what Wolf says matters. As the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA’s budget, the 16-term congressman plays a key role determining the space program’s trajectory. Lately, he hasn’t been happy.

Wolf has pushed the Obama administration to move faster in choosing an aerospace firm to build a shuttle replacement. He’s sparred with the White House over cooperation with China on joint space ventures. Last year, he authored legislation creating a panel of independent experts to review NASA’s direction. The panel must report its findings by the end of the year. Click here. Editor's Note: Several former astonauts were happy to see Constellation's cancellation and support NASA's new direction...including former Apollo astronauts. (10/6)

Statue of Yuri Gagarin Unveiled in Texas (Source: Voice of Russia)
A statue of Yuri Gagarin was unveiled in Houston, Texas on Friday. The ceremony in the park near the historical building of the first NASA headquarters was attended by representatives of the City Council, organizations of Russians in the US and the charity foundation which sponsored the work. The Mayor of Houston said that Yuri Gagarin’s heroic deed belonged to the whole of mankind and the first spaceman in the world was equally esteemed in Russia, the US and other countries. (10/6)

3, 2, 1 ... Antares Rocket Rolls Out (Source: DailyPress.com)
This week, the first stage of the biggest rocket ever to launch from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore rolled out onto its new $145 million launchpad...and Virginia is one step closer to the sky-high ambitions of many in this state to become the Space Coast of the Atlantic. If tests of the medium-size Antares rocket go well, it’ll join the small but growing fleet of commercial crafts enlisted in NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services mission to send payloads to the International Space Station.

NASA turned to the  private sector in part to replace the Space Shuttle program, which flew its last mission in July 2011. The Antares and its Cygnus cargo spacecraft were designed and built by the Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corporation. The rocket still has to finesse a demonstration flight planned for later this year, but once cleared for duty is set to become a workhorse in the commercial space industry. (10/6)

Old Structures Torn Out of Vehicle Assembly Building (Source: WFTV)
Central Florida's largest building is undergoing one of the biggest remodeling jobs it's ever had in 40 years.
The old structures used for the space shuttle program were torn out of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building on Friday.
The sections NASA removed in the VAB were the old platforms shuttle workers used to get access to different parts of the shuttle, the solid rocket boosters and the external tank when they were all stacked upright inside before a launch.

The sections were built for the Apollo era and modified to fit around the shuttle. Workers used to the platforms to get access to all parts of the shuttles as they were prepared for launch. But the platforms were designed only to fit around shuttles and there's no need for them anymore. The goal is to put into place a new set of platforms, which can be adjusted, raised, lowered and extended to fit around NASA's new rocket to take astronauts to an asteroid. "The platforms are designed so that the inserts can be removed and new inserts can be put in for any rocket that is on the drawing board or not yet been developed," said Bolton.

The old platforms are being pulled apart. The useful equipment is being stripped off and the rest will become scrap. In the end, NASA hopes the remodel makes the vehicle assembly building flexible to handle whatever is launched over the next 40 years. It will take weeks to get all the old platform segments removed and even more time to install the new ones. The goal is to have the work completed in time to assemble a rocket in there before 2017. (10/6)

India to Launch 14 Communication Satellites to Meet Transponder Crunch (Source: The Hindu)
Faced with a massive demand for transponders, India plans to launch 14 communication satellites by 2017. The Department of Space (DoS) has projected demand for 794 transponders in the 12th plan (2012-2017) from the operational transponder capacity of 187 from INSAT-GSAT satellites as of March-end this year. These proposed 14 spacecraft, including high power S-band satellite for mobile communications and new generation geo-imaging satellite, are aimed at increasing the transponder capacity and introducing new generation broadband VSAT systems and Ka band systems. (10/6)

Space Coast Waits for Political Will to Return Man to Space (Source: Sunshine State News)
There is a bittersweet feeling around the Kennedy Space Center and across the Space Coast as the space shuttle Atlantis is made ready to be rolled out for public display. Hundreds of technicians and support crew who have spent decades preparing each orbiter for flight will also be mothballed in two upcoming rounds of layoffs in early December and just after the new year. It’s just the latest of the 8,000 shuttle workers laid off from Florida’s KSC after the NASA shuttle program was ended and the gap widens before the Space Launch System advances.

“We have a saying here: ‘Don’t be sad because it’s over, be glad you were a part of it,'” said shuttle systems technician David Bakehorn, while giving a tour of Atlantis earlier this week. Others, told prior to the tour to limit discussion to the craft, were more gloomy in their outlook, noting they will have about six months of severance pay while competing against younger workers for lower level jobs.

Many industry experts have complained that Space Launch System, a rocket built from space shuttle-derived pieces, doesn’t appear to have any specific mission other than to keep jobs going in various states, including Florida. Because of the lack of long-range focus, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, has joined a call to reduce turnover in leadership, to remove politics as projects are moved from start to finish by restructuring NASA into a more independent agency. The idea is for the top administrator to be appointed for a 10-year run. (10/6)

NASA, SpaceX Try to Get a Groove Going With Sunday Launch (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says this Sunday's planned SpaceX rocket launch is nothing less than "the beginning of true commercial spaceflight." SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will settle for "nothing new" and "really smoothly." Both men -- who do have a lot riding on their partnership -- held a live video chat Friday (watch below) to discuss SpaceX's planned launch Sunday at 7:35 p.m. CDT.

If the launch goes off on schedule -- and the weather is still iffy -- a Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a Dragon 9 supply capsule bound for the International Space Station. It will dock three days after launch. If things go smoothly, NASA takes a giant step toward the White House goal of turning over supply of the station and ferrying astronauts to commercial companies. That will get American astronauts off Russian Soyuz rockets, and free NASA to turn its attention to developing a rocket system for flights to deep space and, eventually, Mars. (10/6)

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