November 4, 2012

With New Owner of Atlantis, an All-New Mission (Source: Florida Today)
A sleek, white-and-blue T-38 Talon jet soared overhead, and 7,000 people – NASA and contractor workers and their families – showed up to see the orbiter at a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity Friday near NASA Headquarters in the KSC Industrial Area. Sometimes sober, sometimes rousing, it was a fitting change-of-command ceremony for the last NASA shuttle orbiter to be transferred to a museum. Gathered NASA officials and other dignitaries, including NASA chief Charles Bolden, put Atlantis under the stewardship of Delaware North Park Services, the company that operates the KSC Visitor Complex. (11/4)

Russian Space Industry to Get Help With Exports (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Promotion of exports of goods and services for companies in the Russian civilian space industry will be a major area of cooperation between the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the Russian Agency for Export Credit and Investment (EKSAR) according to the memorandum of understanding signed on November 2, 2012 at the Open Innovation Forum.

The document suggests the development of a mechanism for the selection of projects, the providing of insurance for projects of the rocket and space industry, and joint consideration of these projects. Roscosmos Head Popovkin said that the absence in Russia, until recently, of a mechanism of export credit insurance have set local exporters at a disadvantage compared with foreign competitors. He hopes that EKSAR’s cooperation with Russian manufacturers will open new high-tech markets. (11/4)

A Look at Some Space-Related Congressional Races (Source: Space Politics)
As the 2012 campaign (finally) reaches its conclusion, most of the attention in space policy circles has been on the presidential campaign, as people attempted to compare and contrast the positions of President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. However, there are a number of Senate and House races whose outcomes might also play a key role in shaping space issues in 2013 and beyond, or at least have some space-related angle to them. Click here for summaries of Florida, Texas and California races. (11/4)

Meteorite Hunters Descend on Alabama (Source: Huntsville Times)
Stars fell on north Alabama earlier this week in what could be a historic meteorite shower. Later in the week, it was meteorite hunters descending on the area somewhere near the Bankhead National Forest. The cause of all the excitement is a boulder-size meteor that fell into the atmosphere Tuesday night, Oct. 30, 2012 and split into fragments. Those fragments rained down on northwest Alabama. NASA meteor expert Dr. Bill Cooke, of Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, said Doppler radar signals strongly suggest that a "fair number" made it to the ground. (11/3)

Hope of Methane on Mars Fades (Source: New York Times)
Deflating, at least for now, hopes of microbial life forms inhabiting the soils of Mars, NASA’s rover Curiosity has so far come up empty in its search for the gas methane. At a NASA news conference on Friday, scientists reported that the Mars rover’s instruments had seen no signs of methane, which, had it been there, would have signaled that there might currently be methane-exhaling microorganisms on Mars that are similar to those found on Earth.

In Martian air, methane molecules are broken down by sunlight and chemical reactions within a few hundred years. Thus, when three teams of scientists reported in 2004 that they had detected methane there, it raised the possibility that something on present-day Mars was creating methane, and the most exciting possibility was tiny life forms. (11/2)

China Proposes Space-Based Solar Power Collaboration with India (Source: Times of India)
China today rolled out a red carpet to "Missile man" and ex-President APJ Abdul Kalam on his first visit to the country, proposing a joint collaboration for a space solar power mission with India and inviting him to teach at the prestigious Peking University here. In a surprise move, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the official body operating host of China's space missions as well as satellite launches, invited Kalam to its headquarters where he was given a "great reception" by the Chinese scientists.

"Kalam assured, certainly he will take up this interest to the Government of India and ISRO, so that a hard cooperation and collaboration between ISRO, DRDO and CAST is realised on one of the great mission, may be Space-based Solar Power initiative so that both India and China can work for long term association with proper funding along with other willing space faring nations to bring space solar power to earth," the statement said. "Such a mission will be a great example for the entire world and will bring peace and prosperity to the both the nations as well as to the world," it said. (11/2)

Over 100 Astronauts to Attend Riyadh Meet (Source: Arab News)
Prince Sultan bin Salman, founding member of the Association of Space Explorers and chairman of the Organizing committee, said here yesterday that Saudi Arabia is making rapid advances in the field of education, science and technology since Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah began leading the country. Prince Sultan, who is also president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, attributed the growth to the active role being played by King Abdullah as part of his intensive drive to promote a knowledge-based economy in the Kingdom.

Prince Sultan was addressing a press conference on Saturday ahead of the 25th annual Association of Space Explorers Congress (ASE) and the 2nd Saudi International Space and Aeronautics Technology Conference scheduled to be held here from Nov. 5-10. The conference will be attended by more than 100 astronauts from 18 different countries along with experts in the space and aeronautics sector from all around the world. (11/4)

Wallops Facility To Host Commercial Rocket Launch (Source: Space News)
The Wallops Flight Facility will host a test launch of a commercial suborbital rocket next week. The rocket is expected to launch between 6 and 9 a.m. Wednesday from the facility. If weather prevents the launch, the backup days are Nov. 8 to 14. The Ventions VR-1 is over 10 feet tall and about 6 inches in diameter and is a liquid-fueled rocket belonging to Ventions LLC. It is expected to achieve an altitude of about 3 miles during a 3.5 minute flight. (11/3)

Congress Shuns GPS Dual Launch Study (Source: Space News)
Congress rejected a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) request for an additional $20 million in 2012 to develop a GPS satellite dual launch capability. The Air Force’s effort to develop hardware necessary to launch two GPS 3 navigation satellites simultaneously is funded in the EELV program's engineering, manufacturing and development account. Congress appropriated $53.8 million for that account in 2012 and the Air Force sought to augment that number by $20 million to further study the dual launch option.

All GPS satellites to date have launched one at a time. The Air Force estimates it could save $50 million in launch costs per satellite with the dual launch option, savings that would add up to hundreds of millions of dollars over time. GPS 3 prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver and rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) submitted a plan in January for dual launches starting with the fifth and sixth GPS 3 satellites in 2017. (11/2)

TDRS-K Launch Caught Up In Cascade of Delays After Delta-4 Anomaly (Source: Space News)
The launch of NASA’s next Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) has slipped to mid-January from late December due to cascading range delays associated with the ongoing investigation of an upper-stage engine anomaly during the Oct. 4 launch of the Air Force’s GPS 2F-3 satellite. “A request for a Jan. 18 TDRS-K launch date has been submitted by United Launch Alliance to the 45th Space Wing and it’s pending approval from the Eastern Range,” said a NASA spokesman.

GPS 2F-3 launched aboard a Delta 4 rocket. TDRS-K and X-37B will both launch on an Atlas 5. Both ULA rockets use a variant of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s RL-10 cryogenic engine to power their second stages. On the GPS 2F-3 launch, ULA detected lower-than-expected thrust levels in the Delta 4 upper stage, which prompted a parallel series of industry- and government-led investigations. (11/2)

Antares Core Stage Rides Out Storm (Source: Space News)
The core stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket rode out the harsh winds and rains of Hurricane Sandy from its launch pad at the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the Wallops Island Flight Facility with no apparent damage, company and spaceport officials said. For Antares, the only ill effect of the storm is a one week delay to a wet-dress rehearsal and subsequent hot-fire tests that had been scheduled for late October into mid-November, Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski wrote. (11/2)

SpaceX Uses Dragon's Mission to Roll Out Merchandise (Source: Florida Today)
After SpaceX’s Dragon capsule berthed at the International Space Station last month, the action from the first private resupply mission was essentially over until Dragon’s departure weeks later. Why not take advantage of the lull to sell some T-shirts? “While Dragon’s at the space station, get your ‘Year of the Dragon’ tee and more here,” SpaceX tweeted, providing a link to an online store offering shirts, hats and onesies.

Talk about commercial spaceflight. Other NASA contractors sell merchandise but rarely promote it during the high-stakes, high-cost space missions to which they contribute, either preferring or being asked to keep a low profile behind their government customer. “(The store) was launched as a response to public demand,” said Katherine Nelson, SpaceX vice president for marketing and communications. (11/4)

Enterprise Suffers Storm Damage (Source: AP)
The flying machine that ushered in NASA's space shuttle program has suffered storm damage in New York City. Shuttle prototype Enterprise weathered Superstorm Sandy this week at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, but it sustained minor damage to its vertical stabilizer, or tail. A small piece of foam came off, said a museum spokesman. The damage was confirmed Friday by both the museum and NASA as shuttle Atlantis concluded its journey to retirement at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

Enterprise will be repaired at the earliest opportunity, the Intrepid museum said in a statement. The museum remains closed because of storm damage. "Enterprise remains safely in place and partially covered by the fabric of the damaged pavilion, which was left in place as a protective measure," said museum director Susan Marenoff-Zausner. (11/2)

Richardson Paid $10K For Spaceport Work in California (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Former Gov. Bill Richardson was paid $10,000 for two months consulting work for Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California under an arrangement that ended in September, according to a published accounts of the spaceport’s oversight board meeting held earlier this week.

The spaceport was seeking passage of an “informed consent” law that would protect private spaceflight operators from most civil lawsuits by passengers, but a Richardson spokeswoman said in a letter to the Journal on Thursday that the former New Mexico governor never worked as a “lobbyist.” Stuart Witt told the East Kern County Aviation District Board that Richardson’s two-month contract was completed, according to a published report.

A Richardson spokesman objected to the term lobby in an email letter to the Journal, stating that Richardson provided strategic advice to the spaceport on the legislation. “The Governor did not lobby the Legislature and simply was providing advice …,” Richardson aide Caitlin Wakefield said in her email. “The governor is not a lobbyist and does not lobby in his post-Governor activities.” (11/3)

Editorial: Don't Let New Mexico Lose Space Race (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
If there were any doubts the suborbital space race was intensely competitive, they were answered this week when it was revealed California’s Mojave Air and Space Port had hired former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to advise them on how to get that state’s legislature to approve a limit on lawsuits against space flight operators.

It worked. Now California, like New Mexico, provides that protection. But Texas, Florida, Colorado and Virginia go a step further and extend such lawsuit protection to ancillary companies like manufacturers as well. Christine Anderson, the executive director of New Mexico’s Spaceport America, says “increasingly the operators are the manufacturers. That’s why an emerging industry needs these protections.” She is concerned New Mexico will fall behind those other states.

Despite what the trial-attorney lobby has argued, taxpayers who have invested $209 million in the spaceport should know extending the waiver to suppliers costs nothing. That they apply only to passengers who have paid six figures and been briefed on the risks inherent in being strapped inside a tube powered by rocket fuel for a ride into suborbital space. And that if there is gross negligence, all waivers are off. Click here. (11/3)

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