November 27, 2012

Mojave Spaceport Plans Health Club (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Mojave Air and Space Port’s Building 137, a.k.a., the Pool Building, may soon house a health club. Officials revealed that they have been in discussions with a company about leasing that section of the building for a health center. Officials believe that a health club would enhance the quality of life for people working at the airport/spaceport, making Mojave a more attractive location for businesses. (11/27)

Oklahoma Spaceport Targets UAV Programs (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Burned by a tax credit for Rocketplane Global that produced little, Oklahoma is reluctant to pony up the big bucks needed to attract leading companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR to its spaceport at Burns Flat. This has led to efforts to kill off the state’s space agency. However, an FAA plan to name six sites for the testing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has renewed hopes for the spaceport. If Burns Flat is selected, it would become a hub for the construction, testing and maintenance of UAVs. (11/27)

Germany Surpasses France as Largest ESA Contributor (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Delegates from European Space Agency member states met in Italy, adopting German positions on the future of the European Ariane launcher and utilization of the International Space Station until 2020. The basis for this agreement was joint Franco-German discussions. In total, space programs worth around 10 billion Euros were approved. Germany will be responsible for around 2.6 billion Euros over the next few years, making it the strongest contributor among the ESA partners, giving it the largest share of the overall program. (11/27)

Military & NASA Look to Partner With Commercial Satellite Industry (Source:
In times of dwindling government budgets, the U.S. military, NASA and other federal agencies are increasingly looking to commercial companies for help getting satellites to space. There is a growing movement among government agencies to start hitching more rides for space instruments aboard commercial spacecraft, rather than building their own completely autonomous satellites.

Such a deal is known in satellite circles as a "hosted payload," because a commercial communications spacecraft might "host" an instrument for a Department of Defense (DOD) Earth-observation satellite, for instance. This kind of commercial partnership also fits into NASA's larger initiative to work with the private space industry on human spaceflight as well. (11/27)

NASA Cancels NanoSat Launch Challenge (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida has received official notification that NASA is exercising its right to terminate a Space Act Agreement to implement the NanoSat Launch Challenge. The existence of the SWORDS and ALASA projects -- two government-sponsored nano-sat launch initiatives -- may have contributed to this NASA decision to end the Challenge, which would have awarded a multi-million dollar prize to the first team able to launch two nano-sats within a one-week period.

Space Florida expressed disappointment at NASA’s decision, as the state agency has made a significant investment of staff and resources toward designing and implementing the Challenge. Without the prize funds provided by NASA, Space Florida said they are unable go forward with the NanoSat Launch Challenge at this time. They are considering other options. (11/27)

Stratolaunch and SpaceX Part Ways (Source: Flight Global)
Space launch company Stratolaunch has parted ways with manufacturer SpaceX, dissolving a partnership dating from the project's inception. "Stratolaunch and SpaceX have amicably agreed to end our contractual relationship because the current launch vehicle design has departed significantly from the Falcon derivative vehicle envisioned by SpaceX and does not fit well with their long-term strategic business model," says Gary Wentz, Stratolaunch CEO.

"Moving forward, Stratolaunch has engaged Orbital Sciences Corporation to evaluate and develop alternative solutions with the objective of arriving at a design decision in the early spring timeframe. The other segment contractors will continue to proceed forward in accordance with existing plans since their interfaces have been defined," he adds. Despite the close relations, Stratolaunch's updated designs required "significant structural mods to incorporate a fin/chine configuration," according to Wentz.

Initial concepts did not include a chine, which is a structural extension of the wing root along the sides of the vehicle, useful for providing lift at high speeds. The design changes necessary could have forced SpaceX to make substantial modifications of their manufacturing process, which would effectively negate crucial commonalities with the company's signature Falcon 9 launch vehicle. (11/27)

Stratolaunch and Orbital: Makes Sense (Source: SPACErePORT)
Stratolaunch is now looking to Orbital Sciences to design and potentially develop an air-launch rocket that originally was envisioned as a sort-of Falcon-5 by SpaceX. Orbital has decades of very relevant experience with air-launch systems, including Pegasus and X-34. Given Stratolaunch's tentative plans for operating from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Stratolaunch partner Dynetics already is leasing office space from Space Florida here), such a move could herald the return of Orbital Sciences launch operations to Florida. (11/27)

Space Policy Challenges Facing the Second Obama Administration (Source: Secure World Foundation)
On December 3 in Washington, almost exactly one month after the election, Secure World Foundation will hold a luncheon panel event to discuss the space policy challenges facing President Obama and his Administration in their second term. Please join SWF and a panel of experts as we look forward to four more years and review space issues from the civil, Congressional, commercial (including ITAR reform), and security perspectives. Click here. (11/27)

Continued Growth in Aviation & Aerospace in Florida (Source: Enterprise Florida)
Few states can match the broad range of aviation and aerospace expertise available in Florida. That's why virtually every major industry contractor has significant operations in the Sunshine State. In fact, the number of aerospace companies grew by 4.1% and the number of aviation employees grew by 7.0% in Florida from 2010 to 2011. Today, Florida is the #2 state in aviation, aerospace and space establishments, with more than 2,000 companies and over 87,000 employees.

Among the assets attracting aviation & aerospace companies to Florida is the state's top-rated workforce, which includes tens of thousands of active duty military personnel and veterans, rocket scientists, and other highly qualified workers. Combined with a world-class infrastructure that includes 22 airports with runways of 10,000 ft (3,000 m) or more and three spaceports, Florida's advantages for the industry are hard to beat. (11/27)

Pressure Test Reveals Cracks in Orion Space Capsule (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is evaluating options for repairing the first Orion crew capsule slated to fly in space after it suffered cracks during recent pressure testing at Kennedy Space Center. The damage is not expected to delay a planned launch of the unmanned spacecraft from Cape Canaveral on a test flight in 2014, officials say. “The intent is to diagnose root cause and repair the cracks in time to support a second scheduled window for loads testing early next year,” NASA spokeswoman Rachel Kraft said. (11/27)

Who Will Challene Dragon? (Source: Voice of Russia)
The head of the SpaceX has foretold a grim future for the European Ariane 5 rocket launcher, but SpaceX’s own project, the next Dragon spaceship bound for the International Space Station, has now been postponed until March, 2013. It's thought that could be due to malfunctions in the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and in Dragon’s onboard systems that were discovered during the latest flight. Next year will hopefully see Cygnus, another private spacecraft, supplying the ISS after the shuttle program was closed.

The Cygnus spacecraft, developed by the Orbital Sciences Corporation, is scheduled to launch in April, 2013, which will be the first (and so far the only) demonstration flight needed to evaluate the two systems' performances. Then, two more Cygnus flights are planned for the rest of 2013 and early 2014. Even though the real schedule may turn out to be a little more relaxed, the pace is spectacular. (11/27)

How NASA Might Build its Very First Warp Drive (Source: io9)
A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein's law of relativity. Click here. (11/27)

No More Interest in Further Work on ISS? (Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines)
The International Space Station (ISS) was launched 14 years ago. This week can be a good opportunity to contemplate all that has been achieved and discuss the future of this unparalleled manned program in space. Yet its two principal operators - the U.S. and Russia - seem to drag their feet over further collaboration. Click here. (11/25)

New Spacecraft Should Improve Storm Forecasting (Source: Aviation Week)
A new climate-study spacecraft just entering testing is expected to sharpen weather-forecasting models. The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, a U.S.-Japanese follow-on to the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) launched 15 years ago, will give unprecedented detail in its measurements of rainfall, snowfall and temperatures inside storms like Hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter that followed it into New York Harbor and the New Jersey shore. (11/26)

EchoStar Signs Arianespace Contract (Source: Broadband TV News)
EchoStar Corp and Arianespace have reached an agreement to launch multiple new satellites over a multi-year period from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. The new contract will provide EchoStar with launch capacity and flexibility for its industry-leading satellite program. (11/27)

X-37B: Secrets of the US Military Spaceplane (Source: BBC)
Since the first X-37B was launched in 2010, amateur satellite spotters have carefully followed the robotic spacecraft’s orbit, while those unconnected with the program have speculated that the plane could be anything from an anti-satellite weapon to so-called “on demand reconnaissance,” shorthand for a spy satellite that can be placed over any country in the world.

Compounding the mystery was the launch of a second vehicle in 2011, which stayed in orbit for 469 days, long exceeding the Air Force’s stated maximum requirement of 270 days for the spaceplane. So, what do we actually know about the plane? Click here. (11/27)

Antarctic Lake's Clue to Alien Life (Source: BBC)
The discovery of microbes thriving in the salty, sub-zero conditions of an Antarctic lake could raise the prospects for life on the Solar System's icy moons. Researchers found a diverse community of bugs living in the lake's dark environment, at temperatures of -13C. Furthermore, they say the lake's life forms have been sealed off from the outside world for some 2,800 years.

Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, contains no oxygen, is acidic, mostly frozen and possesses the highest nitrous oxide levels of any natural water body on Earth. A briny liquid that is approximately six times saltier than seawater percolates throughout the icy environment. Dr Cynan Ellis-Evans said: "There are various lakes that are very salty down there... but this is a really freaky one. He said the discovery of microbes at such low temperatures was "a very interesting discovery".

The abundance of different chemical compounds present in the lake led the researchers to conclude that chemical reactions were taking place between the brine and the underlying iron-rich sediments, producing the nitrous oxide and molecular hydrogen. The hydrogen, in part, may provide the energy needed to support the brine's diverse microbial life. In addition, the slow rate of metabolism of these microbes prevents the energy reserves from being quickly depleted. (11/27)

Boeing, Orbital Complete Satellite for Mexico (Source: St. Louis Business Journal)
Boeing and Orbital Sciences Corp. completed the MEXSAT Bicentenario communications satellite for the government of Mexico. The satellite will provide communication services throughout Mexico and the surrounding maritime area. The satellite is now being shipped to Kourou, French Guiana, where it is scheduled to be launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket on Dec. 19. (11/26)

Germany Wins Battle over Ariane (Source: Space News)
The French government appears to have buckled to German demands on key European space programs on Nov. 21, accepting that an enhanced Ariane 5 rocket will be developed to completion for a first flight in 2017 and that Europe contribute to NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle as part of its space station program. (11/21)

Colorado Airport Lands Matching Grant for Spaceport Study (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Front Range Airport has secured $660,000 in matching grant money for a study looking at the feasibility of building a spaceport for sub-orbital flights. The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics approved a grant request for $275,000 to help fund the airport’s study.

That grant is the final bit of funding the airport needs in addition to commitments of $300,000 from Adams County, $50,000 from Denver International Airport, $25,000 from the city of Aurora and $5,000 each from the I-70 Regional Economic Advancement Partnership and the town of Bennett. (11/27)

New Mexico County to Hear How Schools Spending Share of Spaceport Tax (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Doña Ana County officials heard an update on Tuesday about how local schools are spending their share of a Spaceport America tax. Officials from the Las Cruces Public Schools; the Gadsden Independent School District; and Hatch Valley Public Schools addressed the county commission. The school districts each receive a portion of a 1/4 of 1 percent Spaceport America gross receipts tax that's in place in the county. Most of the voter-OK'd measure funds spaceport construction. But a portion is diverted to schools, with the aim of readying students in preparation for aerospace-related jobs. (11/27)

British Military To Take Ownership of 4 Skynet Satellites in 2022 (Source: Space News)
The British Ministry of Defence will take ownership of all the Skynet military telecommunications satellites in 2022 at the end of the current long-term bandwidth supply contract with Astrium Services, British defense officials said. The transfer, which one official said will occur without payment, concerns three large Skynet 5 satellites financed entirely by Astrium and launched between 2007 and 2008, and a fourth scheduled for launch in mid-December. (11/27)

SpaceX Founder Eyes Huge Mars Colony (Source:
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. They 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, big rockets would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment. (11/26)

Space Show Invites Tax-Deductible Donations (Source: Hobby Space)
The year 2012 is quickly coming to a close. Now is the time to support The Space Show/OGLF by making a contribution to help maintain and further develop our programming and access. If you pay U.S. federal taxes, you get a tax deduction for your gift as permitted by law. The same is true for those of you paying California taxes. For everyone else, please check with your tax adviser or contact me with your questions. We do need and appreciate your support. You can make your donation online using Pay Pal at (11/27)

Garver Defends NASA's Commercial Programs (Source: Space News)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver says she is baffled that congressional resistance to the agency’s commercial crew and cargo programs persists in the wake of SpaceX’s two successful resupply flights to the international space station. “We are not communicating this well,” Garver told members of the NASA Advisory Council’s Commercial Space Committee. “I can’t believe we’re losing this argument. How can we be losing this argument?”

Members of NASA’s congressional oversight committees have questioned NASA’s plans to outsource space station logistics to private operators since 2006, when the agency began the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program to subsidize development of privately owned cargo systems.

But with pressure on to reduce federal spending, Garver said NASA’s commercial crew and cargo programs offer the best prospect for the near-term budget relief that NASA needs to embark on crewed missions beyond low Earth orbit. "Our commercial programs are what allow NASA to return the best value to the taxpayer,” Garver said. (11/27)

Why Study Plants in Space? (Source: NASA)
Why is NASA conducting plant research aboard the International Space Station? Because during future long-duration missions, life in space may depend on it. The ability of plants to provide a source of food and recycle carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen may prove critical for astronauts who will live in space for months at a time. In addition, plants provide a sense of well-being.

At the McMurdo Station for research in Antarctica -- a site that in the dead of winter resembles the space station in its isolation, cramped quarters, and hostile environment -- the most sought after section of the habitat is the greenhouse. NASA and the European Space Agency, or ESA, are studying how plants adapt to micro- and low-gravity environments in a series of experiments designed to determine the ability of vegetation to provide a complete, sustainable, dependable and economical means for human life support in space.

Editor's Note: Plant research was a major focus at the Florida-owned Space Life Sciences Lab at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, until deep science budget cuts were implemented to help pay for Constellation's Ares-1 rocket development. Some plant research remained at the lab, and hopefully it will expand there as NASA invests in prerequisite R&D for long-duration space missions. (11/27)

NASA Seeks Concepts for Innovative Uses of Large Space Telescopes (Source: NASA)
NASA is exploring options for innovative and imaginative uses of two large space telescopes recently transferred to the agency. In a request for information (RFI) published Monday, NASA seeks information about system concepts and architectures that would take advantage of these assets to address NASA's goals in astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary sciences, and human spaceflight.

The telescopes are equivalent to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in aperture, but designed to have a much wider field of view. They already are being studied for possible use as a wide field infrared survey observatory, which would address the top priority recommendation in the National Research Council's 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey. NASA is seeking alternative goals and unique approaches in order to expand the range of concepts for use of this capable hardware. (11/27)

Sea Launch Postpones Satellite Launch Until Dec. 3 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Sea Launch consortium has moved the date for the launch of its Zenit-3SL rocket carrying the EUTELSAT-70B satellite 24 hours due to the delayed arrival of the Odyssey platform to the launch site, the company said on Tuesday. The rocket, previously scheduled for a December 2 launch, will lift off at 12:44 Pacific Standard Time on Monday. (11/27)

ESA Space Budget Blow to Climate Science (Source: Nature)
For Europe’s space chiefs, the outcome of last week’s European Space Agency (ESA) budget negotiations was better than expected, given the continent’s economic troubles. But for Volker Liebig, ESA’s head of Earth observation, there is a sting in the agreement. The multi-year budget that member states approved — which falls some €2 billion (US$2.6 billion) short of ESA’s proposed spending of about €12 billion — could force him to postpone or cancel a mission aimed at pinning down the mysterious carbon sinks that are slowing the rise of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. (11/27)

What is the Future of the RLV? (Source: Space Review)
For decades, NASA and the US military have supported several efforts to develop a reusable launch vehicle, of which only the Space Shuttle flew, and it fell short of its cost and flight rate goals. Jeff Foust examines how the US government has quietly exited the RLV development business, leaving the future of such vehicles in the hands of the private sector. Visit to view the article. (11/27)

When the Steel Hand Wavered and an Opportunity Was Lost (Source: Space Review)
When the "Mercury 13" group of prospective women astronauts sought recognition from NASA a  half-century ago, one would have imagined that a pioneering female pilot, Jacqueline Cochran, would have supported them. Billie Holladay Skelley looks at why Cochran instead failed to back their efforts. Visit to view the article. (11/27)

Solar Minimum, Solar Maximum (Source: Space Daily)
The sun goes through a natural solar cycle approximately every 11 years. The cycle is marked by the increase and decrease of sunspots - visible as dark blemishes on the sun's surface, or photosphere. The greatest number of sunspots in any given solar cycle is designated as "solar maximum." The lowest number is "solar minimum." The most recent solar minimum occurred in 2008, and the sun began to ramp up in January 2010, with an M-class flare. The sun has continued to get more active, with the next solar maximum predicted for 2013. (11/26)

Researchers Developing Novel Power System for Space Travel (Source: Space Daily)
A team of researchers, including engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has demonstrated a new concept for a reliable nuclear reactor that could be used on space flights. The research team recently demonstrated the first use of a heat pipe to cool a small nuclear reactor and power a Stirling engine. The Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF) experiment produced 24 watts of electricity. A team of engineers from Los Alamos, the NASA Glenn Research Center and National Security Technologies LLC (NSTec) conducted the experiment. (11/26)

Study of Risks to Humankind Proposed (Source: Space Daily)
British researchers say they want to create a Center for the Study of Existential Risk to analyze the ultimate risks to the future of mankind. The purpose of the center, they said, would be to consider risks to mankind's survival from biotech, nanotech, extreme climate change, nuclear war and runaway artificial intelligence, reported Monday. Artificial intelligence is a particular focus, researchers said, with concerns super-intelligent machines could someday be a danger to the human race. (11/26)

South Texas Tracking Facility Could Boost SpaceX Spaceport (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Brownsville might be destined for the aerospace business whether SpaceX builds a rocket launch site here or not. STARGATE, which stands for “South Texas Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission,” has a 90 percent chance of becoming a reality, according to a professor the University of Texas at Brownsville and director of UTB’s Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy.

STARGATE would be a radio frequency technology facility that would give students and faculty access to cutting-edge equipment with commercial as well as academic applications, including satellite and spacecraft tracking. It would be located at Boca Chica in the same general area SpaceX is considering for a launch site. While the facility clearly would improve Brownsville’s odds of attracting SpaceX, STARGATE could go forward without it.

At the same time, Jenet is negotiating with SpaceX — and other high-tech firms — about getting STARGATE built, he said. The Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp. at its Oct. 18 board meeting approved $500,000 in seed money for the STARGATE project. According to minutes from the meeting, the board stipulated that the approved funds be released “once a Memorandum of Understanding was executed between (UTB) and Space-X. (11/26)

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