November 20, 2012

CSF President Named Vice Chair of FAA COMSTAC (Source: SpaceRef)
the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation announced that Michael Lopez-Alegria, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation would be the vice-chair of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC). COMSTAC provides information, advice and recommendations to the FAA on all matters related to U.S. commercial space transportation. (11/20)

ESA Approves ExoMars Pact with Roscosmos (Source: Space News)
The 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) on Nov. 19 approved a cooperation arrangement with Russia under which the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, will provide two Proton rockets to launch what has become the Euro-Russian ExoMars mission in 2016 and 2018. The agreement would be finalized in the coming days and that its principal characteristics are already known and accepted by both sides. ESA’s ruling council approved the Russian partnership in advance of a two-day meeting of ESA government ministers during which other pieces of ExoMars’ financing were likely to be discussed. (11/20)

Taurus XL Mishap Inquiry Could Affect Antares (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA says it may have discovered the root cause of two consecutive launch failures of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus XL rocket, a manufacturing defect that could affect the company’s Antares rocket being developed to loft commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA and Orbital investigative teams have traced the problem to a heat-treated frangible rail designed to fracture when a pyrotechnic charge is detonated post-launch to shed the rocket’s payload-fairing shroud.

NASA lost its Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) in 2009 and its Glory climate-monitor in 2011, both on launches of the Taurus XL, when the vehicle’s payload shroud failed to open after separating from the rocket. Both Orbital and NASA investigation teams filed accident investigation reports in September and December 2011, respectively, both of which failed to determine the root cause of a 2011 Taurus XL launch failure that led to the loss of Glory.

Since then, NASA terminated its Taurus XL launch service task order for a relaunch of an identical OCO spacecraft, though the investigative teams have continued to explore possible root causes of the Glory launch failure. The teams have discovered a manufacturing problem “that may be more generic than just to the Taurus,” and that while the investigation into this new line of inquiry is preliminary, the findings and mitigation efforts may affect not only the Taurus XL, but other Orbital launch vehicles as well, including Pegasus, Minotaur and Antares launchers. (11/20)

Space Physicist Talks "Robo-Sapiens" in Embry-Riddle Lecture (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle's Honors Program Distinguished Speakers Series continues on Nov. 28 with Rollins College president (and well-known space physicist) Dr. Lewis Duncan offering “Robo Sapiens: Technology and Our Emergent Transhuman Future.” His talk will explore a number of the revolutionary technological advances in nanotechnology, neurorobotics and more, that are leading us to envision a hybrid biological and cyborg transhuman evolutionary future.

While these predictions are firmly based on extrapolations of existing, expected or emerging technologies, the discussion will be focused on the resultant possible futures of human society, and the more fundamental question of what it truly means “to be human.” The event, planned for 7:00 p.m. at the Daytona Beach Campus Willie Miller Instructional Center, is free and open to the public. (11/20)

Lifting the Ceiling on Terran Lifeforms (Source: Space Daily)
The parachuting thrill-seeker Felix Baumgartner is not the only living thing to plunge through the jet stream. Recent studies have confirmed that microbes exist in the stratosphere, the atmospheric region between about 18 and 50 kilometers in altitude. (Baumgartner leaped into history from 39 kilometers up.) Biologists had once thought this zone was uninhabitable due to its low pressure, high radiation and absence of water and nutrients. (11/20)

United Technologies Lays off 500 in Aerospace (Source: Dayton Daily News)
United Technologies' aerospace division is cutting 500 jobs worldwide, part of the company's effort to match staffing to business conditions, spokesman Andrew Martin says. Among the layoffs were workers in North Carolina, Ohio and Connecticut. The aerospace division employs about 40,000 worldwide. (11/19)

Born-Again Star Foreshadows Fate of Solar System (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers have found evidence for a dying Sun-like star coming briefly back to life after casting its gassy shells out into space, mimicking the possible fate our own Solar System faces in a few billion years. 'Planetary nebula' is the name given to the often-concentric shells of stellar material cast into space by dying stars. To astronomers of the 18th century, these objects looked like the colourful 'blob' of a planet through their telescopes, and the name stuck.

Astronomers now know that as a star with less than eight times the mass of the Sun swells into a red giant towards the end of its life, its outer layers are expelled via pulsations and winds. Ultraviolet radiation shining out from the stripped-down hot stellar core then lights up the ejected shells, resulting in intricate artworks that can be seen by modern telescopes. The star at the heart of Abell 30 experienced its first brush with death 12 500 years ago - as seen from Earth - when its outer shell was stripped off by a slow and dense stellar wind. (11/20)

Ariane's Future at Heart of European Space Meet (Source: Space Daily)
The future of Europe's space program came under the spotlight in this southern Italian city Tuesday, where ministers discussed rival plans for a successor to the successful Ariane 5 launcher. The 20-nation European Space Agency, meeting at ministerial level for the first time in four years, is staging two days of budget talks.

The meeting takes place against a backdrop of money worries, a fast-shifting satellite market and the growing strength of the US private sector in near-Earth space. "This council (meeting) is crucial to sustain autonomous European access to Space..." France's Research Minister Genevieve Fioraso said. One of the most crucial agenda items was deciding on a future generation of rocket launcher to replace the aging Ariane 5.

The new rocket should provide more flexible launch options for the swiftly-changing satellite market. France is pushing for a smaller, sleeker Ariane 6 launcher system, which would require about four billion euros, culminating in a maiden flight in 2021 if all goes well. Germany wants a less ambitious option, an Ariane 5 ME (for "Midlife Evolution"), which would be readier sooner at a putative cost of two billion euros. (11/20)

McKenna Out as ILS Chief Executive (Source: Space News)
International Launch Services (ILS) Chief Executive Frank McKenna is leaving the company after six years and is being replaced by long-time Chief Financial Officer Phil Slack. Virginia-based ILS did not explain the reason for the abrupt change, which is effective immediately and is the latest management shakeup in the company in recent months. ILS’s chief commercial and technical officers also have been replaced, for reasons unrelated to each other.

Proton rocket prime contractor and ILS’s principal owner, Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow, itself has seen a management change this year as its chief executive was forced to step down in the wake of Russian government complaints about recent Proton reliability. ILS has little input into Proton’s manufacturing but is responsible for selling the rocket on the global commercial market. The vehicle thus far has not had a good year compared to Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA heavy-lift rocket, which is Proton’s principal competitor. (11/20)

FAA Delays Selection of UAS Test Range Sites (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Citing safety concerns and privacy issues, the Federal Aviation Administration has delayed indefinitely the selection of six U.S. sites for the testing of unmanned aircraft. In a letter received late last week by the members of the Unmanned Systems Congressional Caucus, acting FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta singled out the need to first address privacy concerns that come with increasing the use of drones in the nation’s airspace.

The FAA was to have designated the six sites in December, but already had drawn the ire of the congressional caucus this summer when the agency failed to request site proposals by a July deadline. “It’s unacceptable in my book that they’re delaying this,” U.S. Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) said Monday. “The reasons they’re giving us are the reasons they gave us four years ago.” The frustration, he said, stems largely from the fact that the deadlines being missed by the FAA were of the agency’s own choosing.

As it stands, the FAA has yet to ask for site proposals. “They set their own timelines,” Austria said. The Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center has actively petitioned the FAA on drone surveillance concerns. Ever-evolving UAV technology is designed to be invasive to privacy and is more efficient than manned aircraft because drones fly longer and closer to the earth, said Amie Stepanovich, an EPIC lawyer. If privacy isn’t protected now, UAV surveillance will rise, she said. (11/19)

UK Moves to Become Bigger Player in ESA (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts is about to negotiate the UK’s commitment to individual space programmes at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ministerial Council – a two-day meeting that takes place every four years to reach key decisions on European space programmes and activities for the future.

Following a commitment by the Government of an extra £60 million [$95.45 million] for the UK Space Agency to invest in ESA’s programmes, the UK will be in an excellent position to negotiate strong leadership roles within various projects and has already secured the future of the European Space Agency (ESA) facility in Oxfordshire, including transferring ESA’s telecoms satellite headquarters to the UK and creating over 100 new high-tech jobs. (11/20)

The Rise of Commercial Outer Space (Source: ACUS)
Faced with deep cuts in its operating budget, NASA has undertaken efforts to broaden international cooperation and establish a domestic commercial space industry. With the space shuttle now retired, NASA needs a way to get large amounts of cargo and personnel into space, and private companies are the only ticket up.

Alan Stern argues that commercial space firms are on track to revolutionize suborbital flight research by marketing flights in reusable vehicles at a tenth of the cost of the current single-use craft. The impact on microgravity research, he says, will be analogous to the impact of the rise of personal computers on computing access.

Falling costs and ever-increasing commercial involvement are themselves enough to revolutionize any industry, especially one so famously expensive and state-oriented. When coupled with the enduring power of space to excite the public imagination, the 21st century may yet be the Space Age of which many have dreamed. (11/20)

Safety Cavern Under Apollo/Shuttle Launch Pads (Source:
Submerged beneath the concrete of Kennedy Space Center's launch pad that sent humans to the moon resides a fortified bunker and network of tunnels to save the lives of workers and astronauts in a cataclysmic disaster. It is the Apollo-era Emergency Escape System, and this piece of spaceflight history remains in place at pad 39A almost 45 years after its construction in the midst of the space race.

Picture the mighty Saturn 5 moon rocket, fueled and poised for blastoff from the Florida spaceport. But something goes wrong and everyone at the seaside complex must evacuate to safety. The answer that designers created for men to survive a detonating rocket was this protective cocoon built under the sloping northwest corner of both twin pads at Complex 39. Click here. (11/20)

Germany's Moonlander Proposal Eclipsed by Funding Doubts (Source: Space News)
Germany has abandoned its effort to get its European Space Agency (ESA) partners to help finance a lunar lander, having decided that it cannot find sufficient backing from other nations to make it worthwhile to continue, ESA and German government officials said. The decision was made by the German government just before ESA government ministers arrived here for a two-day meeting to determine how much, and where, they will invest in ESA-managed space initiatives in the coming  (11/20)

SpaceX, Boeing Among Beneficiaries of $461M Satellite Export Deal (Source: Space News)
The U.S Export-Import Bank on Nov. 19 agreed to make $461 million in direct loans for the construction of three satellites for Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) of Hong Kong and the launch and insurance of two of them aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets. The transactions are the first deals in the U.S. government’s fiscal year 2013 and follow a record $1.4 billion in Ex-Im Bank satellite financings in fiscal year 2012, which ended Oct. 1.

Ex-Im has agreed to $171.3 million in loans to ABS for the construction, by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., of the ABS-2 satellite. ABS-2 has been under construction since 2010 and is scheduled for launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket in 2013. ABS has said it would seek Ex-Im-type backing from the French export-credit agency, Coface, for the launch.

In a separate transaction, Ex-Im Bank agreed to provide $289.7 million in direct loans to ABS to support the construction, by Boeing, of two ABS satellites using Boeing’s new all-electric 702SP design. The satellites are expected to weigh no more than around 1,800 kilograms at launch, permitting them to be launched two at a time aboard Falcon 9 rockets. The weight savings of about 50 percent is due to the use of ion-electric power instead of conventional propulsion. (11/20)

Europe's Mercury Mission Takes Shape (Source: BBC)
It's hot, hot, hot! Any spacecraft that plans to visit the innermost planet, Mercury, gets double the trouble. On one side, it's baked by the Sun, receiving some 14,000 watts per square metre, about 10 times what a spacecraft in orbit around Earth would receive. But the spacecraft is also then baked on the other side because the planet itself is a "hot potato", where surface temperatures can reach 470C.

It's a hellish nightmare and designing a probe that could handle this extreme environment very nearly flummoxed Europe's best engineers. The Bepi mission's difficulty in arriving at technical solutions to meet the thermal challenge greatly increased costs and brought the venture perilously close to cancellation. Bepi is now progressing well through its construction phase - albeit way behind on the original schedule - and should be ready for launch in 2015. (11/20)

Commission Seeks “Appropriate Relations” Between EU and ESA (Source: EuroPolitics)
Could the European Space Agency (ESA) eventually become an EU agency? This is a scenario envisaged by the European Commission in a communication published on 14 November, which discusses “appropriate” relations between the EU and the ESA. (11/20)

How ISRO Can Join Hands with Private Enterprise (Source: India Forbes)
A rocket blasting into space doesn’t make news today, such routine are satellite launches and so mature is technology. But, in May, a rocket launch by Californian company SpaceX made news. In fact, it made history as it became the first commercial vehicle to visit the International Space Station (ISS). The launch also signalled an era of private enterprise entering space—-NASA’s biggest bet in recent times of entrusting small, private companies with big, public responsibilities.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Chairman K Radhakrishnan is shuffling his cards for a somewhat similar bet: Of entrusting Indian companies with the task of building rockets and satellites. ISRO has a nearly 30-year-old partnership with the Indian industry. Its enduring tango with 400-odd companies has often been cited as a model for the defense sector to emulate. But what Radhakrishnan is now proposing is of a much higher order: It requires the industry to put its skin in the game. He wants the industry to form a consortium and build the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). (11/20)

ULA: Launch Customers Prefer Reliability Over Cost (Source:
The ever-competitive launch services market has once again been thrown into the spotlight, with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk promoting the low cost of his vehicles, claiming Arianespace’s Ariane 5 has “no chance” of competing with his Falcon rockets on price. However, another big player in the market – United Launch Alliance (ULA) – believes customers are more interested in reliability. Customers wishing to launch their payloads into orbit have several options to choose from, with companies based around the world, sometimes with several launch vehicle options available to cater for their spacecraft. Click here. (11/20)

Women Increasingly Ascend to Top Aerospace Industry Posts (Source: LA Times)
At a time when federal budget cuts are reshaping the nation's aerospace industry, a far different makeover is underway in the executive suites of some of the country's biggest defense contractors. Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's largest defense firm, announced this month that electronics whiz Marillyn A. Hewson would become chief executive — the first woman to take on that role at the company.

No aerospace firm so large — or influential — has ever been run by a woman. Hewson's promotion followed the summer announcement that Phebe Novakovic would take over as chief executive at General Dynamics, the nation's fifth-largest defense firm. Come Jan. 1, there will be a record 21 women who serve as chief executives of firms on the Fortune 500 list of the nation's largest public companies, including Hewson and Novakovic. (11/20)

UF Team Chosen to Help NASA with Orbital Debris Project (Source: The Alligator)
A UF aerospace engineering team has joined forces with NASA to begin a satellite construction project with explosive potential. The project is to design, build and demolish a satellite constructed by aerospace engineering associate professor Norman Fitz-Coy and his team of three graduate students. The results of the simulated collision will help NASA determine what materials to use in their modern orbital debris models.

Both NASA, and the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems are supporting the project, Fitz-Coy said. “It’s the equivalent to what a car company does,” he said. “They crash it before it’s put on the market. You don’t drive on the highway before it’s tested.” The researchers have completed the design review, size components and distribution. The next step is construction and assembly, Fitz-Coy said.

The group predicts the project will be detonated in early 2014, he said. The engineers will study the debris remaining after the 110-pound spacecraft is put through a hypervelocity impact test at a facility in Tennessee, Fitz-Coy said. The purpose is to test the modern materials used in the model. (11/19)

Shuttle Hangar Being Gutted to House Next-Generation Spacecraft (Source: Florida Today)
In the Kennedy Space Center hangar that Discovery once called home, an excavator’s jaws on a recent afternoon clamped onto a third-floor catwalk, ripped a section away and dropped it into a tangled pile. Thundering booms echoed as another excavator smashed a mound of scrap metal in the opposite corner. It was a loud and jarring scene inside the 25-year-old hangar previously known as Orbiter Processing Facility 3, or OPF-3, a place shuttle workers took extensive precautions to keep free of dirt and debris that could damage an orbiter being readied for flight.

And it’s the most tangible evidence yet that unneeded shuttle infrastructure may have a future serving private spacecraft, and that KSC is shifting to a new way of doing business after the shuttle’s retirement. “It’s the first real example of the transition of existing shuttle hardware and facilities that no longer have a purpose, and giving it new meaning and creating an environment where new jobs can be created and exploration can continue further,” said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida. (11/20)

Poland Joins ESA (Source UPI)
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has signed a law that sees Poland join the European Space Agency as its newest member, officials said. Membership in the ESA will enable Polish firms and institutions to take part in European space research projects. Negotiations between Poland and the ESA for membership began Nov. 28, 2011, and concluded in April this year. (11/16)

Brit Astronaut Nick Patrick Joins Blue Origin (Source: BIS)
British born astronaut Nicholas Patrick has left NASA to join private spaceflight company Blue Origin. Patrick, veteran of space shuttle flights STS-116 and STS-130, is one of only five recipients of the BIS’s UK-born astronaut silver pin award for orbital spaceflight , writes Nick Spall.

Nicholas Patrick joined NASA in 1998 and during his two spaceflight missions assisted with the construction of the International Space Station, carrying out three spacewalks and logging 26 days in space. As well as undertaking 2,300 hours of flying and instructing in over 26 types of fixed-wing and helicopers, the 48 year old Yorkshireman is also an experienced ‘aquanaut’, having been one of the NASA crew on NEEMO 6 and commander of NEEMO 13 underwater training missions. (11/19)

Planetary Science Turns to History to Help Guide its Future (Source: Space Review)
NASA's planetary science program is facing a significant budget cut that has alarmed scientists and other advocates of the program. Jeff Foust reports reports on a recent historical symposium that provided some guidance based on the lessons of previous "survival crises" the program has experienced. Visit to view the article. (11/20)

Space and Escaping the Gravitational Pull of Economic Crisis (Source: Space Review)
Many space advocates have argued that large-scale space projects can help open up new markets that stimulate the economy back on Earth. Vidvuds Beldavs and Jeffrey Sommers make the case that not only are such efforts necessary. but also that Russia is the country best positioned to lead them. Visit to view the article. (11/20)

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