November 30, 2012

U.S. ‘Pivot’ to Asia-Pacific Doesn’t Warrant New Investment, Says SES Exec (Source: Space News)
Commercial satellite fleet operators that deal with the U.S. government are not investing in new capacity over the Pacific in advance of the announced “pivot” of U.S. security interest to that area because they have no incentive to do so, a senior satellite fleet official said. Tip Osterthaler, chief executive of SES Government Services, said SES and the two other commercial operators doing regular business with the U.S. government — Eutelsat and Intelsat — cannot defend such an investment to their boards of directors. (11/30)

NASA Mohawk Guy Talks Mars on "Attack of the Show" (Source: Huffington Post)
I recently joined Bobak Ferdowsi, flight director on the Mars rover Curiosity mission, on G4's "Attack of the Show" to talk space exploration and the future of science with host Matt Mira. During the interview, Bobak told us about his adorably nerdy first kiss! Check out the video above for the juicy details. Have you ever been to space camp? Tell us about it in the comments section below. Come on, talk nerdy to me! Click here. (11/30)

Private-Public Partnership Transforms Former Shuttle Processing Facility (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A facility full of platforms that once fit NASA’s space shuttles like a glove is transitioning to make room for a new fleet of low-Earth orbit bound spacecraft. Now called the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF), the former Orbiter Processing Facilty-3 (OPF-3) at KSC is not only going through major renovations to support the manufacturing of Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft. It’s also receiving international recognition as an innovative approach for converting excess government buildings into next-generation commercial facilities. Click here. (11/30)

U.S. Air Force Expects Performance Boost on Newest WGS Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. military’s Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) constellation of X- and Ka-band satellites will nearly double its per-satellite throughput with the last three spacecraft now under construction. That will be good news for a system that, according to Air Force assessments, has not been able to produce the amount of bandwidth expected of it, at least for the first satellites in orbit. (11/30)

ESA, Germany Split on Test Site for Ariane 5 ME Upper Stage (Source: Space News)
Following the European Space Agency’s (ESA) decision to fly an upgraded version of its workhorse Ariane 5 rocket by 2018, ESA and NASA officials plan to meet in early January to discuss testing the launcher’s new restartable cryogenic upper stage at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in northwestern Ohio.

However, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, the head of the German Aerospace Center, or DLR, said his agency would like to run those tests itself, provided that a new facility comparable to the massive Plum Brook’s B-2 Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility — which NASA bills as “the world’s only facility capable of testing full-scale upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines under simulated high-altitude conditions” — can be built at DLR’s test site in Germany. (11/30)

Battle Brewing over European Space Policy (Source: Space News)
The 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) and the 27-nation European Union’s (EU) executive commission appear to be on a collision course over who wields authority over European space policy and its related budgets. The two organizations have circled around each other for years, with ESA hoping the commission would be, in effect, a force multiplier for ESA’s budget, adding 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) or more each year to Europe’s space program.

The EU commission has viewed ESA as a shop of space mechanics, overseeing the technical aspects of space program management but leaving policy decisions to the EU. The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered effect in December 2009, explicitly affirms the EU’s interest in space policy as a “shared competence” with other institutions such as individual EU member states and ESA. This has given the EU commission a mandate to take up space policy.

ESA and EU government ministers are scheduled to meet Dec. 11 in Brussels as part of the 9th Space Council — meetings they have had almost every year since 2004 — designed to pursue common interests. But this year’s meeting is likely to be more fraught than the others because of a policy proposal issued by the commission that basically calls for the EU to assume control of ESA. (11/30)

SSTL Achieves GPS Positioning on Item Above GPS Orbit (Source: InsideGNSS)
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) demonstrated satellite positioning with GPS at an altitude above the GPS satellite constellation orbits. This means that GPS positioning for satellites at GEO and even in deep space may be feasible. An experimental GPS receiver, built by SSTL, has successfully achieved a GPS position fix at 23,300km altitude – the first position fix above the GPS constellation on a civilian satellite.

The SGR-GEO receiver is collecting data that could help SSTL to develop a receiver to navigate spacecraft in Geostationary orbit (GEO) or even in deep space. GPS is routinely used on Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to provide the orbital position and offer a source of time to the satellite. Spacecraft in orbits higher than the 20,000 km of the GPS constellation, however, can only receive a few of the signals that “spill over” from the far side of the Earth. (11/30)

Ice Sheet Loss At Both Poles Increasing, Study Finds (Source: Space Daily)
An international team of experts supported by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has combined data from multiple satellites and aircraft to produce the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses in Greenland and Antarctica and their contributions to sea level rise.

In a landmark study published Thursday in the journal Science, 47 researchers from 26 laboratories report the combined rate of melting for the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica has increased during the last 20 years. Together, these ice sheets are losing more than three times as much ice each year (equivalent to sea level rise of 0.04 inches or 0.95 millimeters) as they were in the 1990s (equivalent to 0.01 inches or 0.27 millimeters). (11/30)

Japan Schedules Radar Satellite Launch (Source: Space Daily)
Japanese national space agency JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will launch an H-2A rocket with a radar intelligence satellite early next year. The launch is tentatively scheduled for January 27, 2013. The satellite will become Japan's second able to take clear images of objects as small as one meter. It will also be able to perform its duties at night and regardless of weather conditions. (11/30)

NASA Interested in 2024 Mars Sample Return Using SLS and Orion (Source:
The Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) has added meat to the bones of a proposal that would result in the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion and a Mars spacecraft making up the key elements of a Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission. With large support already communicated to lawmakers, the notional mission aims to utilize a secondary payload opportunity as early as SLS-5 in 2024. Click here. (11/30)

NASA Provisions, Export Measure Could Hitch Ride on Defense Bill (Source: Space News)
Under a proposed amendment to the Senate’s defense authorization bill, U.S. commercial launch companies would retain their current liability shield and NASA would be allowed to keep trading with Russia to support the international space station — provided that Congress also agrees to a minimum funding guarantee for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket.

The amendment was proposed by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) as the Senate resumed debate on the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3254). Hutchison, the amendment’s sole sponsor, is ending her 24-year Senate career in January. She has been a fierce advocate for NASA’s human spaceflight program and for the Johnson Space Center in Houston. A separate amendment to the bill, proposed by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), would set the stage for easing export restrictions on U.S.-built satellites and related components.

Bennet’s amendment is co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and includes language that differs from a passage in the House’s defense authorization bill, which passed in May. Industry and government sources say the Bennet amendment is intended to mollify White House objections to portions of the House-passed language, including what some administration officials have characterized as onerous reporting requirements. (11/30)

White House Threatens to Veto Defense Bill "In Its Current Form" (Source: The Hill)
The White House has issued a Statement of Administration Policy that threatens to veto the defense authorization bill "in its current form" due to the Senate's changes regarding provisions for transferring detainees at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. The detainee issue, a source of conflict in the past, is not expected to be insurmountable, this feature says. (11/29)

Northrop Grumman Will Cut 200 Jobs by March (Source: LA Times)
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has revealed plans to eliminate about 200 jobs at two sites by March. The company has offered a voluntary buyout plan to employees in the affected division. (11/30)

Smartphone Satellites to Launch Aboard Antares (Source:
NASA engineers are chipping away at how best to lower the cost of their satellites — and one off-the-shelf answer is by using smartphone electronics. Dialing in on the idea has resulted in the PhoneSat project, a technology demonstration mission using a trio of tiny CubeSat satellitesto be launched next year.

The PhoneSat nanosatellites — each weighing in at just three pounds (1.4 kilograms) – will be ejected into Earth orbit during the maiden flight of Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket. The rocket will launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia. (11/29)

Did Solar System's Planets Have Rings Before Moons? (Source:
Enormous rings may have graced many of the planets in the early solar system, giving rise to the moons that circle them today, scientists say. A new computer model suggests that the natural satellites of planets in our solar system may have formed from rings of matter, rather than from the clouds of gas currently thought to have created them. (11/29)

Astronaut Makes a Small Step Toward Becoming a Prime Minister (Source: Space Politics)
Marc Garneau’s place in Canadian history books is already assured: in 1984 he became the first Canadian in space. Garneau flew on three Space Shuttle missions and, after retiring as an astronaut, went on to become head of the Canadian Space Agency. He left the CSA to pursue a career in politics, winning election to Parliament in 2008 as a member of the Liberal party. Now, he’s seeking higher office.

Garneau has declared his candidacy to lead the Liberal party, a position that would put him in line to become prime minister should the party regain control of the House of Commons in a future election. In his bilingual “launch speech”, Garneau cited his space background, but also he desire to move beyond it. “Yes, I was an astronaut,” he said. “But I don’t want to be defined by what I did up there, but rather who I am. I am proud to have had the singular honor of being Canada’s first astronaut. But I am more than that.”

However, being a former astronaut also provides plenty of fodder for campaign speeches—and jokes. After describing his desire to “focus on what we care about — the economy, jobs, a fairer society,” he added, “Ladies and Gentlemen, believe me, this is not rocket science. And, I know a little bit about rocket science!” (11/29)

Canadian Report Cites Insufficient Space Policy Clarity (Source: SpaceRef)
An independent Aerospace Review mandated by the government in its 2011 budget has completed an 11 month review of the aerospace sector and released its recommendations today. The two volume report, one focusing on the aerospace sector, the other on the space sector, could have far reaching consequences depending on whether the government pays heed to the recommendations. Click here. (11/29)

Japan Confesses Data Breach on Epsilon Rocket (Source: Voice of Russia)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has reported a possible data breach on its first Epsilon solid-fueled rocket, Kyodo news agency says. Spyware was found on one of the agency’s personal computers on November 21. It was immediately disconnected from the local area network. Experts are now probing into the origins of the virus, which could be a stray one or planted as a result of a hacker attack on JAXA. Among the leaked data JAXA cited the rocket’s parameters, specifics of its engine maintenance and protocols on agency’s meetings. (11/30)

Indian Companies Say ISRO Monopoly Causes Satellite Shortages (Source: Financial Press)
India's VSAT, teleport and DTH companies, which use satellite-based communication systems, have questioned the “unrealistic” target and the intention of the department of space (DoS) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to meet the steep shortfall in satellite capacity through foreign operators. The domestic operators have accused the DoS and ISRO of favoring foreign operators over Indian companies keen on launching indigenous satellite systems.

The protest from home-grown communication companies comes against the backdrop of what they say is ISRO’s “failure” to meet its target of providing 500 transponders in the 11th Plan period (2007-12) and also increasing it to around 800 transponders in the 12th Plan period (2012-17), without opening up the sector. Between 2007-12, ISRO operationalized only 187 transponders on its satellite system. (11/30)

Lawmakers Seek to Honor Neil Armstrong With NASA Center Renaming (Source: Collect Space)
An effort to rename a NASA flight research center after the late moonwalker Neil Armstrong was relaunched this week in Congress. Congressmen Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced legislation to redesignate NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center. The bill would also rename the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. (11/30)

Embry-Riddle Prepares Latest Jet Dragster for Race Season (Source: ERAU)
Larsen Motorsports of Daytona Beach has debuted the new Embry-Riddle Jet Dragster at Daytona International Speedway. On hand for the unveiling were several Embry-Riddle student interns who apply their specialized skills on a daily basis at the Larsen High-Performance Vehicles Research & Development Center in Daytona Beach.

The all-new dragster features a number of new innovations and is powered by a fully after-burning General Electric J-85 turbo-jet engine like that used in F-5 fighter aircraft. The ultra-lightweight dragster weighs in at only 1,143 pounds empty, giving it a nearly 4:1 power-to-weight ratio. The current 5,000-horsepower hot rod has won three Best Engineered Awards from some of the most prominent sanctioning bodies in the world. (11/29)

Spidernaut Spins New Home at Smithsonian (Source: USA Today)
Nefertiti, the first jumping spider to successfully return from space, starts her new retirement career today at an insect zoo in the nation's capital. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History chief Kirk Johnson will unveil the new home for the spider in an unveiling today at the museum's O. Orkin Insect Zoo. Nefertiti recently returned from 100 days in space as part of a student experiment aboard the International Space Station.

The "Spidernaught" was part of a You Tube Space Lab experiment proposed by an 18-year-old student from Egypt, Amr Mohamed, who wanted to see if jumping spiders could adjust their hunting technique (jumping, surprisingly enough) to weightlessness in space. The cunning spider indeed adjusted to microgravity and continued catching her prey, feats broadcast to students globally. (11/29)

Atlantis Banks Into Final Pose at KSC Visitor Complex (Source: Florida Today)
Developers of the Atlantis exhibit under construction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex say they now can take a deep breath. The retired shuttle orbiter this week was tilted into place inside its new home at the visitor complex, culminating an elaborate, weeks-long process that started with a 9.8-mile trip from KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building on Nov. 2. Atlantis was lifted 30 feet off the ground and shrink-wrapped in 16,000 square feet of protective white plastic coating, before being tilted at a 43.21-degree angle.

They decided on 43.21 because “4-3-2-1 sounds really good” — like a shuttle launch countdown — “and we stuck with that.” The tilt — which was done Monday and Tuesday — puts Atlantis’ left wing tip just 7.5 feet off the ground and the right wing tip 108 feet off the ground. The orbiter will be the centerpiece display at Brevard County’s most popular paid tourist attraction. The new exhibit is scheduled to open in July. (11/30)

How Skylon Could Prepare a Mars Mission (Source: Sky Mania)
The engineers at Reaction Engines Ltd (REL) have allowed their imaginations free range by showing how their new hybrid air-breathing/rocket engine Sabre could even help develop a mission to Mars. REL’s Project Troy might be fantasy but it shows a flavour of what will become possible when the amazing Skylon space plane is flying routine trips from a runway near you.

The first of these interplanetary missions would send three spacecraft to the Red Planet with living modules, rovers, power units and other essential equipment. Once these were safely established, a follow-up mission would send three spacecraft, each carrying a crew of six, to land at the sites with their ready-prepared lodgings. They would spend more than a year of exploration before making a return. Click here. (11/30)

British Engineers 'Crack Secret of Reusable Spaceplane (Source: Flight Global)
The dream of airline-style orbital flight operations has come a step closer to reality with a successful demonstration of the critical technology behind a radical air-breathing rocket engine concept. After years of work that has consumed some $400 million, Reaction Engines has declared success in its attempt to devise a pre-cooler that can liquidise oxygen from intake air, before mixing it with tanked liquid hydrogen to generate thrust like a normal rocket engine.

A spaceplane powered by such engines would leave a runway under rocket power and liquidise its own oxygen until reaching Mach 5.5 at 26km (16 miles) altitude, when tanked liquid oxygen would take over for the journey to low-Earth orbit. Reaction Engines is now seeking another £250 million from investors to develop a demonstrator of its Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) powerplant concept. (11/29)

NASA to Demolish Old Test Facility at Redstone Arsenal (Source: Huntsville Times)
If you hear an explosion Friday afternoon at Redstone Arsenal, it's OK. The demolition of a NASA test structure is scheduled to take place between 1-2 p.m. Friday. Explosive charges will be used to demolish the concrete towers of test stand 4696 -- located in the west test area of Marshall Space Flight Center. The stand has been inactive since 1969, NASA officials said, and was officially known as the F-1 engine static test stand. The demolition is part of upgrading the NASA test facilities. (11/30)

U.S. Government-leased Satellite Capacity Going Unused (Source: Space News)
Much of the more than $1 billion in commercial satellite capacity purchased by the U.S. government each year is unused because the agency charged with allocating the bandwidth has no idea when it is sitting idle, an official with that agency said Nov. 28. While this is partly due to the necessarily lumpy nature of military usage of satellite telecom services, a lot of it is nothing more than poor management of an expensive resource, the official said. (11/29)

Germany Open To Providing Satcom Capacity to NATO (Source: Space News)
The German military is ready to consider providing part of its national military telecommunications satellite capacity to the NATO alliance along the same lines as Britain, France and Italy, a German Defense Ministry official said. German Air Force Lt. Col. Holger Lueschow said that after two years of operations of the two-satellite Satcom Bw system, and with new technologies available to squeeze more capacity from it, Germany “could offer a valuable resource to the NATO community.”

Germany’s first-ever military communications satellites were launched in October 2009 and May 2010 – too late to be part of the NATO contract with Britain, France and Italy on use of these nations’ national systems by the 28-nation NATO alliance. (11/29)

Japan Selects Military Satellite Telecom Provider (Source: Space News)
The Japanese government has selected a consortium led by SkyPerfect JSat to build and launch two X-band military telecommunications satellites and operate them for 15 years under a private finance initiative. The consortium, which includes NEC, NTT and Maeda Corp., is expected to create a special purpose company that will sign the service provision contract in the coming weeks, the official said. The satellites would be launched in 2015 or 2016. (11/28)

UALR to Receive $750,000 NASA Grant for Robot Vision Research (Source: Arkansas News)
A $750,000 NASA grant to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will support research and development on robot vision systems for vehicles on the moon or Mars, UALR announced Thursday. The three-year grant is part of the space agency’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research – EPSCoR. Most of the funds will support the work of Cang Ye, an applied science professor. (11/29)

NASA Urged To Use EVM To Predict Overruns (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has met with limited success in efforts to embrace an earned value management (EVM) system capable of predicting cost overruns and schedule slips on major spaceflight projects such as the troubled James Webb Space Telescope, according to a Government Accountability Office audit prepared for House and Senate oversight panels. The agency’s portfolio included 21 major projects projected to cost a total of $19.4 billion at completion during the GAO’s yearlong audit period that concluded in August 2011.

Congressional auditors examined 10 of the projects, with a combined value of $14 billion, and found just three generating reliable EVM data: the Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution Mission (Maven), the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 and the Radiation Belt Storm Probes. (11/29)

Chinese UFO Likely Part of Ariane 5 (Source: NBC)
For a while, Chinese experts speculated that the object might have been a comet — but skywatchers soon figured out that the sightings occurred less than an hour after Arianespace sent the Eutelsat 21B and Star One C3 satellites into orbit (from the European Space Agency's South American spaceport. "The detailed analysis of the height of the UFO and the timing of observation leads me to conclude that this was the ESC-A upper stage, 30 minutes after all the fuel leaked out via passification," according to a Hong Kong observer.

The Beijing UFO Research Society has reached a similar conclusion. Onlookers watched as a luminous object moved through the heavens, shimmering with rays or rings of light. It's also possible that the swirls of light came from fuel or vapor emanating from the upper stage. Such explanations are consistent with a host of other rocket-related UFO sightings over the years, including Russian rocket stages that have been spotted over the Middle East and Scandinavia. (11/30)

FAA Points to Need to Protect Privacy From Drones (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Unless privacy laws are strengthened, the American Civil Liberties Union envisions a day when police departments large and small use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor troubled neighborhoods. With its decision this month to delay the creation of six national test sites for UAVs, the FAA acknowledged that the ACLU’s fears might not be that far fetched, although an industry spokeswoman largely dismissed the concerns as imagined.

In a letter sent to members of Congress, the FAA pointed out the need to first address the privacy issues, along with safety concerns, that come with increasing the number of drones in U.S. airspace. The purpose of the test sites — which had been scheduled to be selected in December — is to determine how unmanned aircraft can be safely integrated into traditional manned airspace by 2015 in order to perform an endless array of duties.

But unresolved issues abound for unmanned aircraft systems, according to a report released in September by the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office, leading the FAA to indefinitely delay the process of creating test ranges. “Concerns about national security, privacy and the interference in GPS signals have not been resolved,” the GAO report stated. Critics of the delay say the FAA's mandate does not include privacy and should remain focused on public safety when the drones take to the skies. (11/30)

Congressional Blocks Impede Some NextGen Benefits (Source: Bloomberg)
Some of the benefits of the Next Generation Air Transportation System include consolidation and modernization of radar facilities, but a study has found that efforts toward that end have been blocked consistently by lawmakers in Congress. “You tell a congressman that you’re pulling a center out of his or her district, you’re going to have a gigantic scream,” said former Federal Aviation Administration associate administrator George Donohue. (11/29)

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