November 1, 2012

NASA Officials: KSC Still "The Place to Come" in Space Industry (Source: Florida Today)
A perception persists in some quarters that Atlantis’ exit tomorrow from Kennedy Space Center, the last move of a retired shuttle, marks the end of human spaceflight and even of the center itself. Not so, NASA officials repeated today. In fact, with a little more than half the workforce it had a few years ago – still over 8,000 employees – Kennedy will continue a busy transition intended to transform it into a multi-user spaceport and the launching point for deep space exploration missions.

KSC is the home of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, under which the agency is helping Boeing and two other companies to fund and design privately operated space taxis. Cabana said an agreement with a potential tenant for the other two shuttle hangars was in the works. Meanwhile, a high bay in the Vehicle Assembly Building is being renovated to support a heavy-lift rocket NASA is developing to carry astronauts to the moon, an asteroid or eventually Mars. Click here.

Editor's Note: During a "NASA Social" event at KSC, NASA's Lisa Colloredo responded to a question about whether NASA is somehow competing with the commercial space industry at KSC, with the private sector playing a more vital role in space transportation. She made clear that NASA is promoting competition among commercial providers and that their successes--along with those NASA--are yielding positive results for everyone. (11/1)

NASA Impact Statement Cites Florida Employment, Investment (Source: NASA)
NASA Kennedy Space Center employs 2,150 civil servants and 8,200 contractors, with an FY-11 direct budget impact in the state of $1.766 billion. That employment includes about 100 scientists and PhD.s. Click here to see a national and state-by-state impact statement. (11/1)

NASA Seeks Options for SLS Cargo Payload Fairings and Adapters (Source: NASA)
NASA is exploring options for larger payload fairings to enhance the cargo carrying capabilities of its Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, now in development, to carry cargo, crewed spacecraft and science payloads. In a Request for Information (RFI) published Thursday, the agency is seeking information about payload adapters and fairings already available within commercial industry.

Designed to be flexible for crew or cargo missions, SLS will be safe, affordable, and sustainable to continue America's journey of discovery from the unique vantage point of space. Initial SLS configurations will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft, which will sustain astronauts during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space. Future configurations could carry science instruments and other exploration payloads to destinations including Lagrange points, the moon, asteroids, and ultimately Mars. (11/1)

ATK Boss Sees Stability in NASA Business (Source: Space News)
The top executive at ATK said the company’s NASA business appears to have stabilized now that the agency has shut down its space shuttle program and settled on the Space Launch System (SLS) as a replacement for the Ares family of rockets the agency had been planning to build. “On the NASA front, that has really settled down,” Mark DeYoung, ATK’s president and chief executive said Nov. 1 during the company’s quarterly earnings call. “I was worrying about ... NASA probably two years ago, and even last year. That has really settled down.” (11/1)

Astronauts Isolate Ammonia Leak in ISS Spacewalk (Source:
Two astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) stepped outside the orbiting outpost on Thursday to successfully perform an unexpected, US segment-based spacewalk to fix an ammonia leak in the cooling system of a power distribution channel. The Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) was 20th to be performed on the US Segment by an ISS crew, giving it the designation US EVA-20. (11/1)

DigitalGlobe Expects GeoEye Merger To Add $400M in Sales (Source: Space News)
Earth observation imagery and services provider DigitalGlobe on Oct. 31 said the planned merger with rival GeoEye would create a company generating $1.2 billion in annual revenue and $389 million in operating income by 2016. Without the merger, DigitalGlobe said its revenue in 2016 would be $814 million, with an operating income of $324 million. (11/1)

Eutelsat Leases Capacity from RSCC (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat will lease capacity on two upcoming Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) satellites over 15 years for 300 million euros ($390 million). The agreement clarifies the near-term future of Eutelsat-RSCC relations, particularly at 36 degrees east, a slot coveted by both companies and already the subject of a partnership between them. (11/1)

The Women Behind Curiosity Rover's Tweets (Source: Government Executive)
It has been four years since the creation of the Mars Curiosity Twitter account, and one thing hasn’t changed – the witty rover’s still got it. Behind the pop-culture-savvy, science-loving bot is a social media team brimming with ways to engage the public in NASA’s other-worldly exploration.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory keeps news and social media manager Veronica McGregor and social media specialists Courtney O’Connor and Stephanie L. Smith busy, running the social media accounts and public affairs for more than 20 flying missions. McGregor has been a NASA news and social media guru the longest, joining the JPL team in 2001 after covering NASA for CNN.

O’Connor joined McGregor shortly after graduating as an early career hire in 2009 just as Curiosity was being built. She joined the team after working for Microsoft as a social media intern. “I do think that the mission has a kind of special place in my heart,” O’Connor said. “I came on at the same time she was being built.” (11/1)

ATK Reports FY13 Second Quarter Operating Results (Source: ATK)
ATK reported operating results for the second quarter of its Fiscal Year 2013, which ended on September 30, 2012. Orders for the quarter were $1.3 billion. Second quarter year-over-year sales were down 4 percent at $1.1 billion. Net income for the quarter was down 19 percent to $65 million compared to $80 million in the prior-year quarter. (11/1)

Telesat, Boeing Settle Solar Array Dispute (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada and satellite builder Boeing have reached a settlement in their six-year dispute over whether Boeing committed “gross negligence” in delivering Telesat’s Anik F1 satellite with defective solar arrays. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Canada-based Telesat said the two sides agreed to terms Oct. 26, just ahead of an arbitration proceeding that was to have commenced in November — six years after Telesat first filed for arbitration.

Telesat did not disclose the financial terms of the settlement but said it is “not material to Telesat Canada’s operations or its financial position or results.” Telesat had originally sought some $395 million from Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif., alleging that Boeing knew of the solar-array defect aboard the initial series of 702-model satellites but did not inform Telesat of it. Anik F1 was launched in November 2000. (11/1)

SpaceX Transitions to Third Commercial Crew Phase with NASA (Source: NASA)
SpaceX has completed its first three performance milestones for NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, which is intended to lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers.

During the company's first milestone, a technical baseline review, NASA and SpaceX reviewed the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket for crew transportation to low-Earth orbit and discussed future plans for ground operations for crewed flights. The second milestone included a review of the company's plan to achieve the CCiCap milestones established during SpaceX's $440 million Space Act Agreement. SpaceX also presented the company's financial resources to support its co-investment in CCiCap.

At the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., on Oct. 29, SpaceX presented techniques it will use to design, build and test its integrated system during the third milestone, called an integrated systems requirements review. The company also provided NASA with the initial plans it would use for managing ground operations, launch, ascent, in-orbit operations, re-entry and landing should they begin transporting crews. (11/1)

Stop Sequestration, But Cut Defense, Think Tank Says (Source: The Hill)
Defense spending should be cut by $1 trillion, but not through sequestration, says a report from the think tank Center for American Progress. Automatic, across-the-board cuts are the approach, says the group. But "the amount of cuts to the Pentagon budget mandated by both parts of the debt deal is readily achievable with no sacrifice to our security -- if the cuts are done in a thoughtful manner over the next decade." (10/31)

Election May Reshape House Defense Panel (Source: Deense News)
A number of House Armed Services Committee members face tough races, and the election may substantially change the makeup of the panel, this feature says. The committee could lose some specialized knowledge and possibly its bipartisan makeup. (10/30)

James Webb Space Telescope Faces Equipment Delays (Source: Spaceflight Now)
The James Webb Space Telescope is set for testing next year, but the project is hampered somewhat by delays in delivery of the scope's near-infrared camera and spectrometer. Both pieces of equipment, originally slated for a 2012 delivery, are now expected in 2013. Scientists will start cryogenic testing on the parts of the equipment that are in place while they wait for the two sensors. (10/31)

Huge Saturn Moon Titan Glows in the Dark (Source:
Saturn's giant moon Titan glows in the dark like an enormous neon sign, a new study shows. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted a glow emanating from Titan — not just from the top of the moon's atmosphere, but also from deep within its nitrogen-rich haze. "This is exciting because we've never seen this at Titan before," study lead author Robert West said. "It tells us that we don't know all there is to know about Titan and makes it even more mysterious." (11/1)

Active Removal Key To Countering Space Junk Threat (Source: Space News)
The growing threat of orbital debris eventually will shut down the global space industry unless government agencies field a technology to remove the biggest pieces of garbage from low Earth orbit, experts from government, academia and industry said. Even the adoption by every spacefaring nation of practices designed to mitigate the formation of new debris will not be enough to assure the long-term sustainability of space activity, manned and unmanned, they said.

Unless a government-sponsored effort is made to take down the biggest pieces of debris, the risks in launching astronauts and most satellites will force a cessation of most, and maybe all, space operations for an extended period of time. But despite this consensus, the experts from the United States, Canada and Europe said there are no plans on either side of the Atlantic to develop an active debris-removal system that could capture — by a net, tentacles or harpoon — the larger debris pieces that present the biggest threats to the usability of space. (10/31)

Want an Astronaut's Autograph? Better Bring Your Wallet (Source: Florida Today)
An astronaut’s autograph often doesn’t come cheap — especially if they’re one of the few who stood on the surface of the moon. Think hundreds of dollars. You can fetch the John Hancock of less well-known space shuttle astronauts, by comparison, for a relative song. The fifth-annual Astronaut Autograph & Memorabilia Show, being held this weekend as part of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex festivities around Atlantis’ arrival, offers a lesson in astronaut memorabilia supply and demand.

The most expensive signature available is that of Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon and one of the most famous living astronauts. His autograph fetches $450. Bob Springer, a two-time space shuttle astronaut who lives in Rockledge, said his signature goes for $25. The astronauts set their own rate, and they donate all or part of the money generated at this show to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which depends on events like this to provide college scholarships to students who excel in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. (11/1)

Astronaut Glove Creator Reaches Out to the Crowd on Latest Project (Source: Kickstarter)
Peter Homer is no stranger to crowdsourcing. In 2005 NASA announced a series of Centennial Challenges – open competitions that directly engaged the public in the process of advanced technology development by seeking novel ideas from outside of traditional government-funded sources. Two years later Homer became the first “citizen inventor” to win by creating a space suit glove that outperformed those currently flying aboard the International Space Station.

He won the second Astronaut Glove Centennial Challenge in 2009, and is also a Multiple Winning Solver at, a web site dedicated to crowdsourcing innovation problems. Now Homer is taking a cue from NASA and InnoCentive by turning to the crowd for help with his latest creation, a hand-held device for steadying lightweight video cameras to produce smoother, jitter-free videos. He is seeking backers to help commercialize his invention through the crowd funding web site (11/1)

Mojave Spaceport CEO Witt Corrects Bill Richardson Story (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt has set the record straight about the hiring of former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. It had been widely reported that the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) Board of Directors would be meeting on Wednesday to consider an agreement to hire Richardson to help strengthen California’s informed consent law, which covers commercial spaceflights.

Witt told the EKAD board that these reports are incorrect. The Mojave spaceport did hire Richardson earlier this year as a consultant to help get the original legislation approved. That work is now over, and there are no current plans to hire Richardson, who was paid $10,000 for his services. The EKAD board did meet in special session on Wednesday to approve an expenditure for improvement work on two of the airport’s main roads. (11/1)

Curiosity Set to Weigh In on Mars Methane Puzzle (Source: Nature)
Is there methane on Mars? The question has dogged scientists since 1969, when NASA's Mariner 7 program detected Methane near Mars’ south polar cap. The revelation came less than 48 hours after researchers received the data it was based on; and the claim was retracted a month later after realizing that the methane signal was actually coming from carbon dioxide ice.

It is easy to understand why scientists are so keen for an answer. Although there are plenty of ways to make trace amounts of methane, levels of more than a few parts per billion would imply the presence of an unexpectedly active source — and raise the possibility that the planet supports methane-producing microbes.

NASA's Curiosity rover is poised to settle the question as early as this week. But the tale of George Pimental, and a handful of hotly debated methane detections reported over the past decade from orbiting spacecraft and ground-based telescopes, have instilled a sense of caution in the rover science team. (11/1)

Gazprom to Launch Two Satellites by Yearend (Source: RIA Novosti)
Gazprom Space Systems (GSS), a telecommunications arm of Russia’s energy giant Gazprom, is planning to launch two Yamal class satellites by the end of 2012, the company’s general designer Nikolai Sevastyanov said on Thursday. GSS, formerly known as Gazcom, already operates a cluster of three Yamal telecoms satellites in orbit. GSS is planning to have fully-fledged Yamal satellite network in orbit by 2020. (11/1)

Microbes Will Rule the Far Future (Source: New Scientist)
The last life on Earth will perish in 2.8 billion years, scorched by the dying sun as it swells to become a red giant. For about a billion years before that, the only living things will be single-celled organisms drifting in isolated pools of hot, salty water. A grim outlook, sure, but there's a silver lining for today's alien-hunters. The model that predicts these pockets of life on future Earth also hints that the habitability of planets around other stars is more varied than previously believed, offering new hope for finding life in unlikely places. (11/1)

Mark Kelly: Obama's Post-Shuttle Plans (Source: Florida Today)
Though discussions about foreign policy and health care have recently dominated the national political stage, I would like to call to mind another topic that is personal to me and the people of Florida — U.S. space policy. Now that the shuttle fleet is retired, what is next for our space program? We all have a chance to help answer this question when we make our choice for president next week.

For me, President Barack Obama is the clear choice for the future of our space program and the economy it supports. His plans have demonstrated this and he has followed up to make sure those plans come to fruition. He has established the Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development to ensure a team is responsible for continuing progress. He has budgeted $500 million in investments for NASA’s 21st Century Space Launch Complex and Exploration Ground Systems Activities, creating new jobs to upgrade Kennedy Space Center.

NASA will continue its development of Orion — a vehicle that will allow astronauts to go beyond Earth’s orbit to the moon, asteroids and beyond — which will support at least 350 Space Coast jobs. NASA also will develop the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket in its history, to be the backbone of a more sustainable, manned spaceflight program for decades. The president has been criticized for not being clear about his priorities in space, but I see things differently. I have seen him make clear decisions to strategically prioritize our agenda and intelligently make investments. Click here. (11/1)

Progress Craft Docks with Space Station in Second Accelerated Rendezvous (Source: Space Safety)
A Soyuz-U launched from Baikonour Cosmodrome carrying a 2.5 ton resupply vessel, Progress M-17M, automatically docked with the Zvezda service module on the International Space Station. “The docking was carried out in automated regime as scheduled,” said a spokesman for Roscosmos Mission Control outside Moscow.

The trip used a shortened rendezvous time that has been tested once before in the previous Progress M-16M. So far the approach has worked well and Russian experts believe a similar shortened rendezvous could be used by crewed craft as early as March 2013. That would likely come as a pleasant change for the astronauts and cosmonauts who currently spend two days in the cramped Soyuz capsule but could soon arrive just six hours after launch. (10/31)

Minimal Storm Impact Seen at Wallops Island Spaceport (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
NASA says initial assessments indicate minimal impacts at its Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore following superstorm Sandy. The federal space agency says a team surveyed roads and facilities on Tuesday and only reported a number of downed trees. At the peak of the storm, wind gusts topped out around 75 miles per hour and sustained winds of around 60 miles per hour. A recently completed beach replenishment project is being credited for minimizing the impact to critical launch facilities. (10/31)

ISS Swerves to Avoid Iridium Debris, Readies for Spacewalk Tomorrow (Source: Space Policy Online)
The frenetic pace at the International Space Station (ISS) just doesn't stop. After the docking of Progress M-17M this morning, the ISS changed its orbit to avoid a piece of debris from Iridium 33 and got ready for a spacewalk tomorrow. At 7:08 pm EDT, the ISS changed course to avoid debris from the 2009 collision between the U.S. Iridium 33 satellite and a defunct Russian satellite, Kosmos 2251.

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut and ISS commander Suni Williams and Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide were getting ready for a contingency spacewalk scheduled to begin at 8:15 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) tomorrow, November 1. The two have completed two spacewalks together already. The spacewalk tomorrow is to repair an ammonia leak from one the space station's radiators. (10/31)

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