November 23, 2012

Another Two GLXP Lunar Teams Announce Collaboration (Source: Melodika)
SpaceIL and Odyssey Moon Ltd., two teams competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP), announced today a joint teaming deal to pursue the competition purse. Odyssey Moon, the first team entrant in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, is joining SpaceIL, the most significant international teaming deal in the private $30 million race to the Moon. Together, the alliance formed under team SpaceIL will compete in the competition and, according to many, the most likely team to succeed in this dramatic race to the Moon.

The joint teaming arrangement is based on an innovative commercial partnership model that infuses high impact scientific missions with a commercial enterprise funding element. This dynamic partnership brings together the best characteristics of non-profit activities with commercial and entrepreneurial skill sets. Editor's Note: Earthrise Space last month announced that its Omega Envoy GLXP team plans a collaboration with Chile's Angelicvm GLXP team. (11/23)

In Search of NASA's RV Astrovan (Source: SpaceKSC)
When an astronaut needs to go to the pad for launch, the vehicle of choice is the Astrovan. The Apollo-era astronauts used a Cortez motorhome built by the Clark Equipment Company. Because it could carry up to four astronauts, the Cortez was also used for the first six Space Shuttle missions, which carried from two to four astronauts.

Beginning with STS-9 in 1983, the Astrovan was an Airstream Excella motor home. The Airstream was used for every Shuttle launch from STS-9 through STS-135. But (Houston, we have a problem) STS-7 and STS-8 had five-member crews — too large to fit in the Cortez, and the Airstream wasn't available. Videos of those two missions show a [rather ordinary] recreational vehicle being used to transport the astronauts. I've been unable to find any information on this vehicle. Click here to see the video. If you know anything about it, please e-mail Stephen Smith at (11/22)

Space Enthusiast “Taken” Aboard Space Station by Helpful Cosmonaut (Source: Deadline News)
A retired engineer has become the first Scot to “visit” the International Space Station, travelling at 17,000mph some 250 miles above earth – and all without leaving home. Space enthusiast Ian Sheffield couldn’t afford the £15m fare for a ride on the space station so he did the next best thing: persuade a cosmonaut to take a picture of him along for the ride. Ian, 66, gave a snap of himself to Gennady Padalka who was only too happy to take the picture into space. “Ian” spent the next 125 days whizzing around the earth, clocking up a total of 56 million miles. (11/22)

I'm Sending Four People to Mars for the Rest of Their Lives (Source: Vice)
Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp is going to be furnishing those exact dreams with his Mars One project, which aims to build a liveable settlement on Mars, before sending four humans to live there for the rest of their lives in 2023, followed by more batches of people as the years go on, living there for the REST of their lives.        

Besides that minor detail, his project is remarkable in that it aims to raise the majority of its funding through creating the biggest media spectacle the world has ever known – covering every stage of the project and allowing viewers to vote on who gets to take the trip – rather than relying on governments and having to deal with any kind of political interference. I met Bas for a drink to talk about his plans. Click here. (11/23)

Huge Mars Colony Eyed by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk (Source:
Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and CEO of the private spaceflight company SpaceX, wants to help establish a Mars colony of up to 80,000 people by ferrying explorers to the Red Planet for perhaps $500,000 a trip. In Musk's vision, the ambitious Mars settlement program would start with a pioneering group of fewer than 10 people, who would journey to the Red Planet aboard a huge reusable rocket powered by liquid oxygen and methane.

"At Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilization and grow it into something really big," Musk said. Accompanying the founders of the new Mars colony would be large amounts of equipment, including machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet's subsurface water ice.

The Red Planet pioneers would also take construction materials to build transparent domes, which when pressurized with Mars’ atmospheric CO2 could grow Earth crops in Martian soil. As the Mars colony became more self sufficient, the big rocket would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment. Click here. (11/23)

Russia to Decide on Brightman Space Flight Next Year (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's space agency Roscosmos announced on Friday that it would take a final decision early next year on whether British singer Sarah Brightman can make a tourist trip to the International Space Station (ISS). "I have met her, she is all set to fly, but Roscosmos has not yet decided on it. We have a range of possibilities, including sending young cosmonauts to fly. A final decision will be made in the first half of 2013," agency head Vladimir Popovkin said. (11/23)

GenCorp Inc. Stock Downgraded (Source: The Street)
Aerojet owner GenCorp has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its feeble growth in its earnings per share, deteriorating net income, poor profit margins and weak operating cash flow. Click here. (11/22)

Russia Hopes for Ukrainian, Kazakh Support in Moon Program (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian scientists hope for assistance of Ukrainian and Kazakh colleagues in the moon research program, said the head of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lev Zelyony. "We have agreed with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and discuss the possibility of cooperation with Kazakh scientists. We are very much interested in the intellectual and technical potential of our colleagues. It is in the common interests," he said.

According to the scientist, one of the key parts of the program will be spacecraft touching down at the moon poles. The situation is very interesting there. Spacecraft did not touch down in such areas. There are areas with much water ice on the surface at the moon poles. It could be brought by comets, life carriers in the solar system. "We hope to find interesting things," he noted. (11/23)

India Mission to Miss December Launch Date (Source: DNA)
India's space agency may be adept at putting satellites into precise orbit but now appears set to fall flat on its publicly-pronounced date to launch Indo-French spacecraft "SARAL". ISRO sources confirmed that with technical issues cropping up and additional tests proposed to improve reliability, the blast-off on December 12 (12-12-12) is ruled out. "The launch is now likely in January-February", an ISRO official said. (11/22)

What Astronauts Will Feast On in 2030 (Source: WIRED)
NASA has a long way to go before sending a crew to Mars, yet it’s already considering the important details—like lunch. The agency’s Advanced Food Technology Project, working with Lockheed Martin, is developing menus for a manned mission to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s. Interplanetary travel will require a more sophisticated system than ever before for preserving and packaging meals, as well as a way to grow food during the trip. Plans even include the greatest American meal, Thanksgiving—though pulling it off 80 million miles from Earth won’t be easy. Click here. (11/22)

Talking Leadership with Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana (Source: Washington Post)
Robert Cabana is the director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he manages a team of about 8,600 civil service and contractor employees. He completed his astronaut training in 1986 and has flown four space shuttle missions, notably serving as commander of Endeavour in 1988 on the first space station assembly mission. Cabana spoke with Tom Fox, who writes the Washington Post’s Federal Coach blog and is the vice president for leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Click here. (11/22)

Private Space Exploration: Do We Need It? (Source: Russia - Beyond the Headlines)
Many experts, including those in Russia, have their doubts that the private space business is relevant for Russia.
Americans, who started this trend, have been working on private carrier rockets for years and eventually came up with two programs. The first one is SpaceX’s Dragon; the second is SpaceShip from Virgin Galactic. The former envisions the use of privately owned spacecraft to bring cargo to the ISS and other low-orbit destinations; but Dragon carried a limited load for its first flight, so it is still a bit early to speak of commercial benefits.

Russians should exercise caution when adopting the American experience and introducing commercial practices in domestic space exploration. Stephen Attenborough, commercial director for Virgin Galactic, believes that Russia has a more solid state-run space program that renders private, commercial space exploration irrelevant. (11/22)

NASA Voted #1 For Job Satisfaction in Federal Government (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA has ranked #1 in employee job satisfaction in the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) conducted by the Office of Personnel Management. This survey offers an assessment of how Federal employees view their jobs and the Agencies for which they work. (11/21)

Mars or Bust - Elon Musk is Serious About the Ultimate Road Trip (Source: Flight Global)
Many things can be said about Elon Musk, but there are a few worth noting: he thinks big, he thinks in a straight line and he's got very rich that way. And, he can really pull a crowd. Like many entrepreneurs, Musk's vision of the future includes features - from which he hopes to make money - that the rest of us have not thought of. But to hear him talk about the wildly ambitious is to be turned on to ideas that would have seemed mad earlier in the day. Indeed, by the time he had finished, more than a few engineers in the crowd were visibly crackling with inspiration. Click here. (11/21)

Virgin Galactic Pushing for New Mexico Liability Relief (Source: Space News)
New Mexico’s fledgling commercial spaceport is in danger of becoming a white elephant if the state does not extend a liability shield to manufacturers and suppliers supporting emerging private spaceflight operators like Virgin Galactic, say proponents who have twice failed to get legislation passed.

As an operator, Virgin Galactic, the primary tenant at Spaceport America, is protected, but if lawmakers again pass on extending the liability shield to manufacturers, the company said it will rethink its commitment to flying its planned fleet of suborbital passenger spaceships from New Mexico. “We’re going to look at what the legislature does and then evaluate our stance toward the spaceport after the session,” said Virgin Galactic President George Whitesides. (11/21)

Sri Lankan Govt. Distances Itself From Satellite Launch (Source: Daily Mirror)
The Government yesterday distanced itself from the first communications satellite to be launched today, despite it being endorsed by Scientific Affairs Senior Minister Tissa Vitarana and backed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s youngest son Rohitha. Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRCSL) Director Anusha Palpita told Daily Mirror yesterday that the government was in no way involved in the satellite launch.

“It is a venture undertaken by a private company and we are not involved in the project in any capacity. However, the company has applied for a downlink and uplink services’ licence from the TRCSL. We have not granted approval yet,” he said. Mr. Palpita said though discussions were carried out on several occasions concerning the launch of a satellite with government involvement, the task was not undertaken as it would cost about $400 million. (11/22)

Editorial: ESA Has Chosen Badly With Launch Vehicle Development (Source: Flight Global)
At the recent European Space Agency ministerial meeting in Naples, Italy, the agency really had three choices with respect to its launch vehicle development:  it could built the Ariane 5 ME (Mid-Life Evolution) which might buy a little more time for Ariane 5;  or It could develop a new expendable (and cheaper-to-fly) modular Ariane 6 rocket; or it could go for a full scale reusable or partially reusable rocket design.  Each option had downsides. 

The first option would not necessarily make the Ariane 5 much more competitive, save for its ability to carry more than one very large communcations satellite at a time. But it would be ready early. Developing the new Ariane 6 is probably the most logical choice given that SpaceX Falcon rockets are beginning to threaten Arianespace on price. Nevertheless,  in a way, even the Ariane 6 is behind the curve technologically as it remains an expendable rocket while SpaceX is already moving towards reusable technology.

The final option and probablly the best in the longer term is to develop a reusable  or partially reusable launch vehicle, possibly on the basis of ESA-sponsored Reaction Engines Skylon technology program. The downside of this option is that it has more technical risk with a development that may be more expensive and take longer than the others. (11/22)

Future of U.S. Space Exploration Rides on Orion (Source: NBC Bay Area)
The future of U.S. space exploration is scheduled to lift off with a test flight in about two years that will mark another step forward after the end of NASA's shuttle program. Orion, target date for the first unmanned test flight is 2014, will sit atop a rocket stack and return to Earth at high speed before parachutes deploy for an ocean splashdown. Although it might look like something from the early days of U.S. space travel, Orion is designed to go much deeper into space.

The spacecraft, developed for NASA by Lockheed Martin, is about 16 feet wide and designed to carry four people on missions that could last months. Mission control will use satellite navigation systems to guide the wingless craft to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California. Click here. (11/22)

Sea Launch Prepares for the Launch of EUTELSAT 70B (Source: Sea Launch)
The Sea Launch vessels have departed Sea Launch Home Port in Long Beach, Calif., for the equator, in preparation for the launch of the EUTELSAT 70B satellite. Liftoff is planned for 12:43:55 Pacific Standard Time (PST) on Sunday, December 2nd at the opening of a 54-minute launch window. (11/20)

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