November 16, 2012

Register Now for the 42nd Space Congress (Source: CCTS)
The Canaveral Council of Technical Societies is re-starting its Space Congress with a one-day conference at the Florida Solar Energy Center on Dec. 7. The theme for the 42nd Space Congress is “A New Beginning” and signifies both the Council’s return to conducting these public technical conferences and the way forward for the Cape Canaveral Spaceport: its facilities, launch vehicles, and the future payloads that will fly from our country’s premier spaceport.

NASA, DOD, other government agencies, and commercial companies are being invited to attend along with educators, students, society members, space activists, amateur rocketeers, and interested members of the general public. Our goal will be to bring together the best in the commercial and private spaceflight industries to motivate all generations of space pioneers to focus on a common goal to reach to space to resolve scientific questions, provide means for low-gravity manufacturing, etc., using the facilities we shall have to work with here in Florida. Click here for information and registration. (11/16)

Electric Bus Quietly Tours Spaceport (Source: NASA)
A new bus made an unusual impression on officials at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently when the all-electric vehicle carried a contingent of center, state and local officials on a tour of NASA's launch site. "Your first impression will be that it's not even on, that it's not even running," Proterra engineer Joel Torr told the group just before they climbed aboard for the ride.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the vehicle, though, is the prospect of saving fuel and maintenance costs while operating a bus that produces no emissions. "We are actively promoting the use of alternative fuel vehicles when possible," said John Thiers. The fleet of vehicles at KSC has been progressing toward a greater share of alternatively fueled transportation for a number of years as more options have become available.

Electric, natural gas and ethanol-powered cars share KSC's sprawling networks of roads with gasoline-fueled vehicles comfortably - the center covers 144,000 acres, after all. This was the first time an electric bus has been offered, though. Space Coast Energy Consortium arranged the visit which included officials from Florida and local county organizations, plus industry representatives including General Motors. (11/14)

Embry-Riddle Researcher Wins NSF Early Career Award for Gravity Research (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle scientist Dr. Jonathan Snively has received the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for junior faculty members, the Faculty Early Career Development grant, supporting his continued research on gravity waves and their effect on the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Snively, an assistant professor of Engineering Physics in the Physical Sciences Department at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, will receive $478,720 over five years from the NSF award program that encourages the activities of teacher-scholars who are judged likely to become leaders in academic research and education.

“Jonathan is one of the best and brightest researchers at Embry-Riddle,” said Dr. Mike Hickey, associate vice president of Research and Graduate Studies at Embry-Riddle. “The fact that he’s the fourth professor at the Daytona Beach Campus to receive the highly competitive NSF Early Career Award in the last seven years demonstrates that the NSF has great confidence in the quality of Embry-Riddle faculty and students and the research they conduct.” (11/16)

NASA Announces Leadership Changes at Glenn and Johnson (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced leadership changes Friday for the agency's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Johnson Space Center in Houston. James Free will succeed Ramon (Ray) Lugo as Glenn's center director when Lugo retires in January. Free has served as Glenn's deputy director since January 2011. Ellen Ochoa will succeed Michael Coats as Johnson's center director when Coats retires at the end of the year. Ochoa has served as Johnson's deputy director since September 2007. (11/16)

Space Repair Enters the Robotic Age (Source: New Scientist)
Russian roulette was nothing compared to this. The 2-ton satellite was screaming toward Earth, and most of it was expected to survive the rigours of re-entry. If it stayed aloft another 10 minutes parts of the defunct German X-ray satellite could smash into Beijing. It was pure luck that prevented disaster. Thanks to the craft's orientation and the density of the atmosphere at the time, it missed China altogether and splashed down safely last year in the Bay of Bengal.

Thankfully, such situations are rare, yet things do go wrong in space. Each year about one satellite is launched into the wrong orbit or is unable to deploy a crucial component, hobbling it at the beginning of its life. Others die because they've run out of fuel, cutting short their careers. What if there was a way to save satellites that go wrong? Not only could we wring more out of the hundreds of billions of dollars of equipment above our heads, we could ensure the safety of neighbouring satellites, which risk getting smashed up unless they blast themselves out of the way. Click here. (11/16)

6-Minute NASA Rocket Launch Tracks Solar 'Nanoflares' (Source:
NASA scientists launched a small telescope into space this month to study faint flares on the sun. But there's a twist: The mission took less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg. The solar telescope flew atop suborbital sounding rocket on Nov. 2 during the short 6-minute flight, which  launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico aboard. The rocket, which is designed to fly experiments into space but not orbit the Earth, carried the Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (or FOXSI) to study small changes in the sun's weather.

Though short-lived, the 200-mile (321 kilometers) rocket flight could provide new data on mysterious solar nanoflares — tiny, sudden bursts of energy that constantly erupt on the sun's surface. As their name suggests, nanoflares are much smaller and thus harder to see than the massive solar flares that get attention for wreaking havoc on Earth's electronics and communications networks. (11/16)

Pumpkin Pie Craters on Mercury are Solar System First (Source: New Scientist)
The planet Mercury used these ingredients to bake several strange crater pies, complete with wrinkled crusts and cracked fillings. Spotted by a NASA probe, the craters are unlike anything seen on other rocky worlds, adding to the diversity of geologic processes known to occur in the solar system.

The pies were found in Mercury's northern highlands, which were flooded repeatedly with volcanic eruptions early in the planet's history. These floods buried underlying impact craters, but as the lava cooled, the crater rims became visible as the material above them wrinkled and split, forming the edges of the pie crust. (11/15)

Roaming Robot May Explore Mysterious Moon Caverns (Source: Nature)
William 'Red' Whittaker often spends his Sundays lowering a robot into a recently blown up coal mine pit near his cattle ranch in Pennsylvania. By 2015, he hopes that his robot, or something like it, will be rappelling down a much deeper hole, on the Moon. The hole was discovered three years ago when Japanese researchers published images from the satellite SELENE1, but spacecraft orbiting the Moon have been unable to see into its shadowy recesses.

A robot might be able to “go where the Sun doesn't shine”, and send back the first-ever look beneath the Moon's skin, Whittaker told attendees at a meeting of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) programme in Hampton, Virginia, this week. Over the next two years, the NIAC programme will spend about US$500,000 developing Whittaker's creations. The prototype he tested at the coal mine could be lowered into the Moon pit to check the walls for openings. (11/16)

Oversight Report: NASA's Challenges Include Tight Budgets and SLS (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's Inspector General has identified five "overarching issues" facing NASA management, and the major new rocket being developed in Huntsville is key to one of them. That issue is the future of human spaceflight. All of the challenges, the OIG says, are complicated by the budget realities in Washington.

Before getting to the Space Launch System (SLS) being developed in Huntsville, however, the OIG report released Nov. 8 details the challenges facing the International Space Station and the commercial companies NASA is counting on to service it. The station is currently scheduled to close in 2020, but NASA is studying whether the life of the $60 billion orbiting laboratory can be extended until 2028. NASA people working on the station routinely say they believe its life can work well beyond 2020, perhaps as long as another decade. Click here. (11/16)

KSC Potential Bright for Energy Research (Source: NASA)
Kennedy Space Center's future is not limited to space thanks to a technical, engineering and scientific infrastructure that could serve a variety of industries. "We have a lot of great technologies developed in-house that can be used to help advance partner technologies... We now have the opportunity, more so than before to make available our lab capabilities, our expertise and licenses to utilize our technologies," said Robert Hubbard, Partnership Development manager at NASA's Florida launch center.

Officials at the Space Coast Energy Consortium say Kennedy has dozens of unique features that make it ideal for research work, along with the technical workforce and cutting-edge researchers needed. "Kennedy has thought of itself as an aerospace-focused place, but those skills have a broad applicability for other things," said David Mandernack, project director for the energy consortium. For example, Kennedy's work preparing rockets and spacecraft for flight includes handling super-cold propellants, such as hydrogen and oxygen safely, along with hypergolic chemicals that are toxic and call for special accommodations. (11/16)

DoD Could Save Billions [and Increase Space Spending] with New Military Strategy (Source: Defense News)
The U.S. Defense Department could save hundreds of billions of dollars if it revamps its military strategy and makes its forces more expeditionary, according to a new report calling for "Strategic Agility." The nonpartisan Stimson Center released the strategy on Nov. 15 at a time when lawmakers and the White House are trying to come up with a plan to lower the U.S. deficit.

Strategic Agility calls for maintaining air, space and naval forces stronger than any potential adversary and maintaining advanced technology and special operations forces. It calls for a greater amount of defense-related research and development, which could be used in next-generation weapons. The group also looked at ways to make DoD more efficient without cutting end strength and major weapons programs. The panel concluded DoD could save about $1 trillion if it implemented these suggestions.

The panel looked at phasing in the mandated cuts gradually over several years and not cutting all accounts evenly at 10 percent. The group calls this plan a “smooth sequester.” Even with these cuts, DoD could double its funding of basic applied research, increase special operations forces, increase cyber warfare capabilities and increase funding for space systems, the report states. (11/16)

Spaceport Sweden Wins Innovation Award, Parliamentary Visit (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Spaceport Sweden has been awarded the ”Innovation of the Year”, being promoted as a pioneer and role model for innovation combining science, nature and technology to develop new cutting edge experiences and developing space tourism in Sweden. The award was handed out at the Swedish Tourism Awards, in Stockholm.

Spaceport Sweden together the Parliamentary Space Network were invited to the Swedish Parliament to discuss commercial human spaceflight. MPs from the whole of Sweden got an opportunity to listen to and discuss how space tourism is being developed and how Sweden can continue to be at the forefront of this industry by putting in place a supportive regulatory regime and capitalising on the opportunties for innovation and cross-industry cooperation. (11/16)

Despite Instrument Delays, JWST’s Cost, Launch on Track (Source: Space News)
The late delivery of pair of critical instruments for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) poses no threat either to the flagship observatory’s development costs or launch date, a senior NASA official said Nov. 15. “As long as they show up before next fall, we’re definitely on,” Christopher Scolese, director of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said. Nov. 15 at a Capitol Hill luncheon hosted by the Space Transportation Association. (11/16)

SES-3 Ka-band Payload Shrouded in Mystery (Source: Space News)
The SES-3 satellite launched in July 2011, billed as just another plain-vanilla telecommunications satellite to replace another, has led a dashing life in orbit including a secret payload, two secret customers and a world tour. Built by Orbital Sciences, SES-3 was described by its owner, SES of Luxembourg, as carrying 24 C- band and 24 Ku-band transponders designed to replace the AMC-1 satellite covering North America at 103 degrees west longitude.

Undisclosed at the time was that SES-3 carries two Ka-band transponders. Also left unmentioned was that the satellite is equipped with encryption capabilities that qualify it for MAC-1, or Mission Assurance Category-1, status with encrypted tracking, telemetry and control. The U.S. Department of Defense defines MAC-1 as the highest of three categories intended for information deemed vital for the operational readiness or mission effectiveness of deployed and contingency forces.

SES-3 after its launch was moved to 99 degrees west longitude in geostationary orbit, there presumably to prepare for the retirement of AMC-1 and to give Luxembourg-based SES an in-orbit spare in the event that one of several of the company’s satellites with solar array defects needed emergency backup. But in December, SES-3 began a long drift to Asia, where SES had identified an unnamed business opportunity that industry officials said was the U.S. Department of Defense. By January it was at 108 degrees east. (11/16)

CASIS Names Board Members (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, inducted its first seven members to the organization’s permanent Board of Directors. CASIS Board Members are divided into two categories in accordance with the organization’s bylaws – “managing members” and “scientific members” – to ensure a solid distribution of skills. Click here. (11/16)

Nuclear One-Two Punch Could Knock Out Dangerous Asteroid (Source:
Destroying a dangerous asteroid with a nuclear bomb is a well-worn trope of science fiction, but it could become reality soon enough. Scientists are developing a mission concept that would blow apart an Earth-threatening asteroid with a nuclear explosion, just like Bruce Willis and his oilmen-turned-astronaut crew did in the 1998 film "Armageddon."

But unlike in the movie, the spacecraft under development — known as the Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle, or HAIV — would be unmanned. It would hit the space rock twice in quick succession, with the non-nuclear first blow blasting out a crater for the nuclear bomb to explode inside, thus magnifying its asteroid-shattering power. (11/16)

KSC Visitor Complex Ends Annual Free Weekend for Locals (Source: Florida Today)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has ended its traditional free “Salute to Brevard Residents” weekend after 12 years. Instead, Brevard’s most popular paid tourist attraction is introducing an alternative: a month of 70-percent-off tickets for Brevard residents and their guests in a program being called “30 Days of Giving.” That reduces the basic ticket price to $15 plus tax for adults and $10 plus tax for children ages 3 to 11, compared with the regular price of $50 for adults and $40 for children. (11/16)

Roscosmos Has Not Yet Decided on Second Space Tourist's ISS Visit in 2015 (Source: RBTH)
The Russian Federal Space Agency has not yet decided whether it will allow a second space tourist to visit the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015, Roscosmos manned space flight program director Alexei Krasnov said. The mission commander must be a professional. There can be no compromise on that. The other two candidates are still being discussed. We have time to adopt a decision," he said.

British soprano singer Sarah Brightman could travel as a space tourist to the ISS, taking up the second seat on board a spacecraft, due to take off in October 2015, Krasnov said. "The third crewmember could be a representative of the European Space Agency or an unprofessional astronaut," he said. However, if two space tourists are allowed to fly to the ISS in 2015, Russia's Energia Space Rocket Corporation will have to "confirm that such an arrangement is safe," he said. (11/16)

Georgia County Wants to Open Georgia's First Spaceport (Source: Florida Times-Union)
The Camden County Joint Development Authority is exploring building an "aero-spaceport" facility in the county to bring in new jobs and to move the troublesome St. Marys Airport away from a Navy sub base. The authority board authorized its chairman, John McDill, to enter into an agreement with Union Carbide, owner of 4,000 acres of former industrial property, and for its staff to begin obtaining the remote site and necessary permits.

According to the authority, the state has found interest in the site where rockets have been tested before. “The Georgia Department of Economic Development has been exploring the market potential for commercial space activity at the site and has received significant industry interest," the development authority said. The development authority characterized the site as remote and says it offers the potential for a longer runway and more long-term economic development than other sites considered for the relocation.

It has a former private airfield and a rocket testing facility along the alternate Intracoastal Waterway where rockets were barged and tested in the past, the airport authority said. David Keating called Thursday’s vote the “first step in an extensive discovery, entitlement and permitting process." The development authority would not develop the land itself but would make it available to the St. Marys Airport Authority, which is exploring moving the airport away from its current location, virtually next door to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. (11/16)

SatWest Working on Rocket Payloads for New Mexico Spaceport (Source: New Mexico Business Weekly)
Brian Barnett always wanted to be an astronaut. Although that didn’t work out, his company, SatWest, has signed on to work with Virgin Galactic and NASA on payloads for research rockets that will leave southern New Mexico’s Spaceport America. “If they have a rocket, and they want to fill it like an airplane, where every seat is filled with paying payloads, that’s SatWest’s sweet spot,” Barnett said. “Virgin has an agreement for payload integration and marketing. So, we work together on proposals to NASA.” (11/16)

I Say "Space Shuttle," You Say "Space Clipper" (Source: Slate)
In a memo from aide Peter Flanigan to President Nixon, dated January 4, 1972, Flanigan made a last-ditch effort to convince the president to stop using the term space shuttle when referring to NASA’s new space exploration vessel. “The word shuttle has a connotation of second class travel and lacks excitement,” Flanigan wrote. Flanigan offered a list of classier alternatives: “Space Clipper”, “Pegasus”, and “Starlighter.” Click here. (11/15)

Curiosity Rover Helps Scientists Plan for Human Missions to Mars (Source: Voice of America)
NASA's Curiosity rover is three months into its two-year mission on Mars as it investigates whether conditions there ever could have supported microbial life. Researchers are interested not only in ancient Mars but present-day Mars so they can plan future travel to the Red Planet. In the past 12 weeks, the Curiosity rover has scooped up Martian soil, sampled the atmosphere, mapped wind and radiation patterns, and monitored changes in air pressure on Mars. 

The car-sized rover is exploring near the foot of a peak called Mount Sharp within a deep, 150-kilometer-wide depression called Gale Crater. The overall goal of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission is to use Curiosity's 10 scientific instruments to learn if Mars ever offered a habitable environment for micro-organisms. (11/15)

Google, Dish Held Talks to Launch Wireless Service (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Google Inc. has held talks with satellite-TV provider Dish Network Corp. in recent weeks to partner on a new wireless service that would rival the networks of wireless carriers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, according to people familiar with the discussions. The talks between Dish and Google aren't advanced and could amount to nothing, one of the people said. (11/16)

Election Maintains Status Quo In U.S. Space Plans (Source: Aviation Week)
There’s good news and bad news for U.S. space exploration and exploitation, with the presidential election in the rearview mirror. The good news is that the bipartisan space policy hammered out with a lot of angst over the past four years won’t need to be reviewed while a new president gets his feet on the ground. For now, at least, President Barack Obama’s space policy, as modified by members of both houses in Congress, will remain unchanged.

The bad news is that the whole U.S. space enterprise is heading toward the so-called fiscal cliff that could make a change of presidents look like just another bump in a perennially bumpy road. When the New Year’s fireworks light up at midnight on Dec. 31, the Budget Control Act of 2011 is set to whack $1.7 billion from NASA’s fiscal 2013 spending level (and $54.7 billion from the Pentagon — some of it for space). (11/14)

Waiting on Senate Defense Authorization (and Export Control Reform) (Source: Space Politics)
The Senate was scheduled to start debate this week on its version of a defense authorization bill, several months after the House passed its version of the legislation. However, it looks like that won’t happen, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blaming Republicans for slowing the process. It’s also being held up by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who wants a vote on an amendment he’s proposing.

This makes it likely the bill will be delayed until after the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving recess on Nov. 26. The bill is being closely watched by some in the space industry since it is a potential vehicle for export control reform. The current Senate version contains no reform language, but a separate Senate bill does, and the House version contains a provision returning to the President the ability to remove commercial satellites and related components off the US Munitions List.

There are debates between the administration and Congress about the language in the House bill, but those arguments are moot if the Senate does not pass its version of the legislation. Editor's Note: Also included in the House bill, but not the Senate's is a provision championed by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) that would facilitate state and commercial investments in spaceport infrastructure that can support dual commercial/military needs. (11/16)

Space Coast-Based Tech Authority Settles With Feds, Will Dissolve (Source: Florida Today)
Facing an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, and potentially millions of dollars in legal fees and penalties, the board of the 25-year-old Florida Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) decided to dissolve the agency in the wake of a civil lawsuit filed in March. Government lawyers alleged the authority improperly applied for millions of dollars in grants and then knowingly misused some of that funding to build its Melbourne headquarters and business incubator.

That facility on property owned by Melbourne International Airport opened in 2007 after operations moved there from Titusville. Started in 1987, TRDA was focused on helping fledgling high-tech businesses through access to services, mentoring and technology-based economic development programs. The government’s lawsuit was on behalf of NASA and the Economic Development Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, both of which provided grants to TRDA in the early 2000s.

No directors, staff or board members currently at the TRDA were involved in the funding allegations. Last week, the Melbourne Airport Authority sent a $4 million payment to the federal government on the same issue. Unlike TRDA, the airport was not the subject of a formal complaint, but the Department of Justice was seeking $11 million, which included money paid to the airport for the 31,000-square-foot facility at 1050 W. NASA Blvd., as well as interest and penalties attached to those funds. (11/16)

Legislature Must Deal With TRDA Dissolution and License Plate Funding (Source: SPACErePORT)
As TRDA moves toward dissolution within the next 14 months, state lawmakers will have to consider the fate of 50% of annual revenues the agency receives from the popular Challenger/Columbia license plates, as required in Chapter 320.08058, Florida Statutes. They must also strike or amend other pieces of law that established TRDA and codified some of its programs, including the Teacher Quest Scholarship Program.

The Challenger/Columbia license plate program typically generates around $900,000 per year, which is distributed equally between TRDA and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (which is now led by State Senator Thad Altman). TRDA's share is designated to be used for space research grants, teacher scholarships, and economic development programs. I believe the bulk of TRDA's spending has been for economic development activities, often in collaboration with Space Florida and other economic development agencies.

So what will happen to the approximately $450,000 in annual license plate funding that TRDA receives? Perhaps I'm biased, but I recommend that it be re-devoted to space research grants. It should be used by Space Florida to augment NASA's annual investment in the Florida Space Grant Consortium, for a joint grant program aimed at expanding Florida's university involvement in space research and technology development. (11/16)

Drought-Stricken States Await Crop of New Satellite Sensors (Source: Space News)
As communities along the U.S. East Coast continue to repair the damage caused by coastal flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Western states are girding for increasing water shortages. A study published Nov. 11 in the journal Nature Climate Change warns agricultural regions in California and other areas of the Northern Hemisphere that rely heavily on melting snow to irrigate crops are likely to see a significant drop in snowfall in the years ahead.

That type of forecast is fueling the desire among weather and climate scientists to obtain data from new sensors designed to assist them in forecasting drought conditions and monitoring scarce water resources. For years, researchers have relied on U.S. government Landsat imagery satellites, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration geostationary and polar-orbiting spacecraft, the twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites developed by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, and the European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission to gather data on droughts. (11/15)

Curiosity Rover Measures Radiation and Wind on Mars (Source: WIRED)
NASA’s Curiosity rover has lately been investigating the wind and radiation on Mars, providing data on some uniquely Martian weather phenomena. The probe’s main objectives on Mars are to scour the planet for signs of ancient habitability. “But we also have some pretty important goals of studying the modern environment,” said geophysicist Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for Curiosity during a press conference. ”And it’s a pretty dynamic environment.” (11/15)

Most-Distant Galaxy Candidate Found (Source: Carnegie Institution)
A team of astronomers have set a new distance record for finding the farthest galaxy yet seen in the universe. By combining the power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and one of nature's own natural "zoom lenses" in space, they found a galaxy whose light traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth. The diminutive blob--only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy--offers a peek back in time to when the universe was 3 percent of its present age (13.7 billion years). The light from this newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, is from 420 million years after the Big Bang. (11/15)

Gadgets in Space: What It Takes to Get an iPad Into Orbit (Source: WIRED)
Astronauts on the Space Station spend a lot of time on decidedly consumer-edge tech. For crew staying on the ISS for six months at a time, gadgets like tablets and smartphones can make this remote outpost feel more homey and comfortable. “Everyone wants the next newest camera to be brought up,” self-funded space tourist Richard Garriott said. He said the everyone on the ISS wanted to play with the Nikon D3X he took there in October of 2008.

Back in June, NASA sent a pair of iPhone 4s up into orbit on the shuttle’s last trip to the ISS to conduct experiments with some purpose-built apps. Notebook computers and even iPods have made the leap into orbit. And tablets should also be heading up in the near future. This is all about a lot more than simply playing Angry Birds Space in space. Click here. (11/15)

Unfinished Spaceport America Sends Out an SOS (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Spaceport America in New Mexico is still unfinished and has yet to see a single commercial spaceflight, but it is apparently already in need of saving. Or so says the Save our Spaceport Coalition, which held a press conference in New Mexico’s state capital of Albuquerque. The event was held to “announce the formation of a group dedicated to pass a new law limiting the liability for space accidents in order to ensure the future of Spaceport America and save thousands of jobs in aerospace, tourism, and construction,” according to a press release.

New Mexico already has an informed consent law intended to prevent spaceflight participants and their families from suing in the event of injuries or deaths except in cases of gross negligence or intentional harm. However, the measure does not cover spacecraft manufacturers and suppliers. Spaceport officials have said that without the expanded protections, it has proven difficult to convince other spaceflight companies to locate to the $209-million, taxpayer-funded spaceport. Additional tenants are required to make the spaceport self sufficient financially.

Editor's Note: Those states that already offer this kind of expanded liability protection don't exactly have spaceflight companies knocking down their doors to relocate or expand their operations there. There simply aren't a lot of companies in this emerging industry that are willing or able to do this, until the industry grows and matures beyond its current state. (11/15)

NASA OIG: NASA's 2012 Top Management and Performance Challenges (Source: SpaceRef)
The year was not without challenges... For example, due to cost overruns in the James Webb Space Telescope and other projects, NASA had to reprogram funds away from several Agency initiatives. This resulted in developmental delays in some ongoing projects and cancellation of other planned projects, including the ExoMars/Trace Gas Orbiter missions to Mars.

Moreover, the congressional decision to provide NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) with less than half the funding requested by the President in FY 2012 extended to 2017 the earliest date that NASA expects to obtain commercial crew transportation services to the ISS, which is significant if NASA is unable to maintain and utilize the Station beyond its currently scheduled retirement date of 2020. (11/15)

Lugo and Coats Are Out at NASA. More Changes Ahead? (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA will announce soon that Glenn Research Center Director Ray Lugo and Johnson Space Center Director Mike Coats are leaving their respective positions. All-hands meetings have reportedly been scheduled for Friday at JSC and GRC. These departures, which will be described as "retirement", are part of a larger attempt by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden to rearrange field center management at NASA. Bolden is still attempting to replace several other NASA field center directors including Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden - despite repeated pressure on Bolden from the White House and Congress not to do so. (11/15)

Advice to Astronauts: Freeze Your Sperm (Source: Discovery)
Researchers have some advice for astronauts planning families after they return from long stays in space -- freeze your eggs or sperm before you go. Studies on rats haven't sorted out whether it's the radiation, the impacts of microgravity on the hormonal system, or a combination of both that is responsible for damage to testes and ovaries during spaceflight and in ground-based experiments that simulate weightlessness.

"Along with the lens of the eye, these are the most sensitive of all the organs to radiation," said space researcher Joseph Tash, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Male Contraceptive Research and Drug Development at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Click here. (11/15)

What can $300 million a year buy for NASA’s planetary program? (Source: Space Politics)
In its quest to restore $300 million to NASA’s planetary science program, the Planetary Society described what that restored funding could provide. According to “newly-formed internal budget numbers” provided by unnamed “sources within the planetary science community,” that additional funding could fund a 2018 Mars lander mission to cache samples for later return to Earth, a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, and could also move up the next Discovery mission selection one year, to 2015.

Of course, all of that is not possible with just an additional $300 million. While details (including the specific “budget numbers”) are not specified, the implication is that not only would the $300 million cut proposed in FY-2012 be restored, but also the overall funding level of $1.5 billion would be retained for the indefinite future. For example, the reformulated Europa mission included in that calculation has a cost of at least $2 billion (down from the estimated $4.8 billion); that’s about seven years’ worth of $300 million funding wedges alone. Click here. (11/15)

ISS Crew Struggling to Find Time to do Research (Source: Space Policy Online)
ISS crews continue to struggle to find time to do that research amidst spacewalks, spacecraft arrivals and departures, and other operational tasks. At the same time, researchers need to know how long the ISS will be available -- only through 2020 or later? Those were two of the messages from NASA's Mike Suffredini and Bill Gerstenmaier during a two-day meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's Human Exploration and Operations Committee.  Suffredini spoke yesterday.  Gerstenmaier briefed the committee this morning.

NASA has a goal of performing 35 hours of research per week, but the current average is 26.13 hours.  He is trying to find ways to "buy back crew time" and looking forward to the era of commercial crew when the typical ISS crew complement will be seven instead of six. (11/15)

Lunar Project Rumored to be Coming to Cape (Source: SPACErePORT)
I'm hearing bits and pieces about a new commercial space project coming soon to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, with speculation that it involves lunar transportation and multiple well-regarded space industry players. More as I hear it. (11/15)

Student Teams Participate in NASA Rocketry Challenge (Source: Space Daily)
Organizers of the NASA Student Launch Projects have announced the 57 student teams whose inventive creations will soar skyward in April during the space agency's 2012-13 rocketry challenge. Representing schools in 26 states around the country, participating teams each will design and build a large, high-powered rocket, complete with a working science or engineering payload and capable of flying to the target altitude of 1 mile. NASA created the rocketry challenge to encourage young people to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Editor's Note: Multiple Florida-based teams are participating, from Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Santa Fe College in Gainesville, University of Florida in Gainesville, and University of Central Florida in Orlando. (11/15)

Florida Publication Follows Space Law Developments (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Aviation and Space Law Report (FASLR) is a detailed review of important aviation related decisions by Florida state courts, including by federal district courts in Florida and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  In addition, the FASLR presents new or proposed rules, regulations, and legislation that impacts the practices of aviation lawyers and businesses in Florida.

Published twice yearly (May and November), the FASLR focuses on six areas of aviation law: (1) airports and land use; (2) corporate and general aviation; (3) labor and employment; (4) litigation; (5) regulatory law; and (6) space law.  In doing so, the FASLR both reflects how dynamic the practice of aviation law is in the jurisdiction of Florida and serves as a resource for aviation and aerospace actors in Florida. Click here, then scroll down and click the "Published Works" section of Tim Ravich's website. (11/15)

Space Coast Energy Consortium Launches Crowdfunding Challenge Projects (Source: SCEC)
The Space Coast Energy Consortium (SCEC) and Rockethub are proud to announce the launch of the inaugural Space Coast Crowdfunding Challenge! The Challenge allows individuals and businesses in our community with great ideas but little capital, who reside on the Space Coast or East Central Florida, to be able to access donations and support via an online platform. SCEC is partnering with RocketHub, an international web-based crowdfunding community to host the Challenge. Check out some of the space-derived project/product videos here. (11/15)

Characterizing Near Earth Asteroids with Radar (Source: Space Safety)
NASA released images of a wide asteroid approaching Earth from Oct. 28-30. The images were taken with the 70-meter-wide Deep Space network antenna at Goldstone, California. “The radar images of asteroid 2007 PA8 indicate that it is an elongated, irregularly shaped object approximately one mile (1.6 km) wide, with ridges and perhaps craters,” NASA JPL scientists wrote in an image description on Nov. 5. “The data also indicate that 2007 PA8 rotates very slowly, roughly once every three to four days.”

UF Developing "DebriSat" (Source: Space Safety)
The University of Florida, sponsored by NASA and the US Air Force’s Space Missile Systems Center, is developing DebriSat, a spacecraft created to be purposely destroyed on the ground. “Data gleaned from demolishing DebriSat will be valuable in the short- and long-term” said J. C. Liou of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office “Collision fragments are expected to dominate the future orbital debris environment.

Therefore, a high fidelity breakup model describing the outcome of a satellite collision, in terms of the fragment size, mass, area-to-mass ratio, shape, and composition distributions, is needed for reliable short and long term impact risk assessments.” DebriSat is a microsatellite of 50 kilograms (110 lb) fabricated and tested to be the target of a hypervelocity impact. This test will be used to replicate on Earth the amount of energy experienced during a typical impact between two orbiting satellites. 

DebriSat’s impact test is scheduled in early 2014 at the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee. After the impact every fragment will be measured individually and data delivered to and analyzed by the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office that will use the information to enhance the satellite breakup model and to provide improved impact risk assessments. (11/15)

Video Promotes European Space Investments (Source: ESA)
Is Space a good investment for Europe? The problems facing the world today demand innovative solutions. Space has solutions to provide. Thanks to its broad scope of capabilities, covering nearly all domains of space, ESA is boosting Europe's ability to meet new challenges. To succeed at space missions and projects, we are constantly developing new technologies and applications. By working in Space, ESA is boosting Europe's competitiveness and growth. This video shows how investing in Space benefits our everyday lives and our planet, prepares our future, and how Space is an investment that pays valuable dividends, today and tomorrow. (11/15)

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