December 13, 2012

Vietnam, US Boost Space Technology Cooperation (Source: VietnamNet)
NASA Administrator Charles F.Bolden made the statement at the December 10 meeting with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) to review the results of cooperation between the two nations in this field over the years. His visit to Vietnam is a follow-on to the signing of an agreement on civil aviation and space cooperation in last December.

During the working session, both sides discussed the possibility of cooperation in the areas of common concern such as sharing SAR data and earth observation data from Vietnam’s remote sensing satellite (VNRedSat) and training VAST human resources for earth technology, applied science programs on natural disaster warning. The focus of discussion was on programs on global positioning satellite system and verification, exchange of earth technology scientists and practical application in earth observation. (12/13)

In Best Place to Work, NASA Workforce Rallies in Post-Shuttle Era (Source: NASA)
NASA was named the best place to work in the federal government among large agencies in a survey by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization. This ranking, which reflects NASA's highest results since this index was developed, makes clear that the agency's workforce is focused on carrying out the nation's new and ambitious space program.

During the past year, NASA's employees continued to implement America's ambitious space exploration program, landing the most sophisticated rover on the surface of Mars, carrying out the first-ever commercial mission to the International Space Station and advancing the systems needed to send humans deeper into space.

Just last week, NASA announced the next Mars rover mission and recently announced the first year-long crew stay on the International Space Station. As the agency continues developing the capabilities to explore the solar system and beyond, as well as understand our home planet and make life better here, workers with a wide range of skills and interests will be critical. (12/13)

Study Warns of Sequestration Impacts to NASA, NOAA Programs (Source: SpaceRef)
As negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff heat up, little attention has been paid to the impact that mandatory budget cuts would have on the nation's civil space program and our ability to accurately forecast dangerous storms. A new economic impact analysis concludes that over 20,000 NASA contractor jobs and over 2,500 NOAA jobs related to weather satellites could be lost in 2013 if the Budget Control Act's sequestration mandate takes effect on January 2, 2013.

"This report demonstrates that the biggest single threat to our space programs' continued success are arbitrary and capricious budget cuts," said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. "NASA and NOAA are responsible for cutting edge activities that expand the boundaries of knowledge and discovery, lead to economic innovation and save lives. We can't afford not to invest in these sources of American scientific and technological greatness."

Dr. Stephen S. Fuller, Dwight Schar Faculty Chair and University Professor and Director for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, conducted the study on behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association. Dr. Fuller's analysis found that in addition to threatening the jobs of many of the scientists, engineers and technicians that design, manufacture and operate our nation's spacecraft, sequestration would also deal major damage to those regions of the country with high concentrations of aerospace activity, better known as industry clusters. (12/13)

House Panel: NASA Needs Strategic Direction, Disagrees on What it Should Be (Source: Space Politics)
In the search for consensus for the future of NASA, members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee are, by and large, not particularly supportive of the agency’s current direction. However, there were far fewer signs of consensus of what alternative approach NASA should pursue.

The consensus in NASA’s direction outlined in 2005 and 2008 bills was broken by the Obama Administration in 2010, Rep. Ralph Hall claimed. “The current agreement, if it can be called that, is not a consensus as much as it is a compromise,” he said of the 2010 NASA authorization act. “It’s been clear over the last few budget cycles that there are fundamental disagreements.” Click here. (12/13)

Boeing Develops Game-Changing Composite Propellant Tank (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A 2.4-meter-diameter propellant tank made of composite materials arrived on Nov. 20, 2012 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where engineers are preparing it for testing. Composite tanks have the potential to significantly reduce the cost and weight for heavy-lift launch vehicles and for other future in-space missions.

This is the largest composite tank ever produced with new materials that do not require autoclave processing. Complex autoclaves for processing large composite structures are high-pressure furnaces. Boeing used a novel automated fiber placement technique to manufacture the tank in Tukwila, Washington.

Marshall is leading the Composite Cryotank Technologies and Demonstration project with support from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida through funding provided by the NASA Space Technology’s Game Changing Development program. (12/13)

Confusion Over North Korean Satellite, Amid 'Tumbling' Claim (Source: Independent)
Confusion continues to surround the operational state of a satellite that North Korea claims it has launched into orbit, amid earlier US reports that the object was 'tumbling out of control'. A US official said that the device, which was launched at 7.49 p.m. ET on Wednesday, had an unstable trajectory and could crash land back to earth.

The official also confirmed the object is some kind of space vehicle, but that they haven't established what it is supposed to do. Confused reports over the operational state of the satellite have continued throughout the day with South Korea's defense ministry contradicting the US reports to say that the satellite was orbiting normally at a speed of 4.7 miles (7.6km) per second. (12/13)

What Would a Mars Base Be Like? (Source: America Space)
Mars is the planet most like Earth in our Solar System. Aside from its lack of air and generally chilly temperatures, it isn’t too unfriendly a place for life. In fact, it may even have had life of its own three to four billion years ago, when it was a warmer and wetter place. It’s also not too far away – the second nearest planet, after Venus – coming to within 55 million kilometers of Earth on occasions.

For these reasons and more, Mars is the most logical place, after and possibly including the Moon, to build a permanently-occupied base. Back in the 1960s, amid the excitement of Apollo, Mars seemed like a natural next step and there was talk of humans landing there within another decade. Since then the public and political will to push on with manned space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit has dwindled. Click here. (12/13)

Pentagon Warns of 'Pervasive' Industrial Spying for U.S. Tech (Source: WIRED)
In 2011, two Chinese nationals were convicted in federal court on charges of conspiring to violate the Arms Control Export Act after attempting to buy thousands of radiation-hardened microchips and sell them to China. The day the pair were sentenced to two years in prison for the plot, the U.S. Attorney called it an example of how “the line between traditional espionage, export violations and economic espionage has become increasingly blurred.”

It’s also an example of the increasing number of military and space technology espionage cases being uncovered in the U.S. each year, according to a new report from the Defense Security Service, which acts as the Pentagon’s industrial security oversight agency. Industrial espionage has grown “more persistent, pervasive and insidious” and “regions with active or maturing space programs” are some of the most persistent “collectors” of sensitive radiation-hardened microchips, an important component for satellites. Click here. (12/13)

Raytheon Wins DARPA Contract to Design New Military Imaging Satellites (Source: Raytheon)
Raytheon was awarded a $1.5 million DARPA contract for phase one of the agency's Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) program. During the next nine months, the company will complete the design for small satellites to enhance warfighter situational awareness in the battlespace. The SeeMe program will provide useful on-demand imagery information directly to the warfighter in the field from a low-cost satellite constellation launched on a schedule that conforms to Department of Defense operational tempos. (12/13)

Thales 'Confident' in Recovery of Yamal 402 Satellite (Source:
A communications satellite owned by a division of Gazprom, the Russian oil and gas producer, is steadily moving toward its operational orbit after a Proton rocket and Breeze M upper stage deployed the craft in an unplanned orbit Saturday. The Breeze M engine shut down about four minutes earlier than planned on its final burn to place Yamal 402 in a geostationary transfer orbit.

Engineers are confident the satellite will reach its operational position with enough fuel to last for much of its planned lifetime, according to an official with Thales Alenia Space, which constructed the Yamal 402 spacecraft in Cannes, France. But the craft will burn more propellant than anticipated to make up for the shortfall during launch. (12/13)

Search for Aliens Poses Game Theory Dilemma (Source: New Scientist)
Sending messages into deep space could be the best way for Earthlings to find extraterrestrial intelligence, but it carries a grave risk: alerting hostile aliens to our presence. Game theory may provide a way to navigate this dilemma. So far the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has mostly been restricted to listening for signs of technology elsewhere.

Only a few attempts have been made to broadcast messages towards distant stars. Many scientists are against such "active" SETI for fear of revealing our presence. If all aliens feel the same way then no one will be broadcasting, and the chance of detecting each other is limited. To weigh up the potential losses and gains, Harold de Vladar turned to the prisoner's dilemma, a game-theory problem in which two prisoners choose between admitting their shared crime or keeping quiet, with different sentences depending on what they say. Click here. (12/13)

North Korean Satellite 'Orbiting Normally' (Source: Guardian)
A satellite that North Korea launched on a long-range rocket is orbiting normally, South Korean officials say, following a defiant liftoff that drew a wave of international condemnation. Washington and its allies are pushing for punishment over the launch, which they say is a test of banned ballistic missile technology. The launch of a three-stage rocket similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea's expanding atomic arsenal. Launch video here. (12/13)

SpaceX President Discusses Air Force Launches (Source: Air Force Times)
The president of SpaceX said the U.S. domestic space launch market has “changed dramatically” in the last two weeks as a result of an Air Force decision to award the upstart company its first military contracts. Gwynn Shotwell also said SpaceX plans to grow its nascent military launch business. “There’s no question we’re going to be flying national security missions,” she said. “We have to. We want to support that warfighter overseas, too.”

After calling the market for commercial space launches “incredibly stable, if not growing,” Shotwell said her company was not worried about how sequestration could impact the industry. “Frankly, I think it probably helps us with the Air Force,” Shotwell said. The cost efficiencies her company has achieved for commercial launches make them a “little bit safer in the world of sequestration.” (12/12)

With SolarCity on IPO Deck, Elon Musk Still Eyes Same Path for SpaceX (Source: Upstart)
Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and Tesla, today reminded everyone that he has big plans for SpaceX. No, not sending payloads into orbit in his own spacecraft (though that's certainly still the plan). It's for taking the company on a different, very public journey. Musk wants shares of SpaceX traded in the public markets, he said via Twitter.

“SpaceX will go public at some point, as I think it should ultimately be owned primarily by the public,” Musk wrote in a tweet this afternoon (see it below). “My big worry would be long (hopefully) term when I'm dead, eg v sad situation with once great HP,” he wrote in another tweet later on, presumably referring to Hewlett Packard which has seen its stock drop from $53.87 per share in April of 2010 to $14.57 per share today. (12/12)

Virgin Galactic Future at Spaceport America Uncertain (Source: AP)
The deal was sold to New Mexicans in classic Richard Branson fashion. If taxpayers would build the colorful British businessman a $209 million futuristic spaceport, he would make New Mexico the launching point for a space tourism business catering to the rich and famous. Now, with Spaceport America nearly complete but still mostly empty, a Virgin Galactic official says the company will reassess its agreement if lawmakers don't pass a liability exemption law, raising the possibility it could take its spacecraft elsewhere.

And state officials acknowledge the company — which has yet to post a deposit for what is supposed to be a $1 million-a-year lease — could walk away from the quarter-billion-dollar project. Asked if she thought the state failed to properly protect itself in the deal, she said, the agreement negotiated under former Gov. Bill Richardson and approved by lawmakers in 2005 was for the state to build the spaceport and Virgin Galactic to develop the spacecraft.

"It's easy to second guess what was in people's minds," she said. "I'm sure everybody was excited to have Virgin Galactic as an anchor tenant." Paul Gessing, president of the conservative Rio Grande Foundation, said the lack of protections for the state was not surprising, "given the Richardson administration's record of throwing money at 'development' of these big vision projects" like the spaceport and a $400 million commuter train. (12/13)

House Panel Urges Creativity for NASA (Source: Florida Today)
Better international engagement on space missions. More partnerships between NASA and private aerospace firms. Improved consensus between Capitol Hill and the White House on the direction of the nation's space program. Those were among the ideas that legislators and space advocates floated Wednesday during a House committee hearing that focused on two reports released last week questioning NASA’s focus and direction.

Most agreed that the space agency, like many other federal programs facing fiscal belt-tightening, must narrow its portfolio or find new ways to pay for the expensive missions. “We’ve got to be creative and find new approaches, otherwise it's just going to fall apart,” Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said at the hearing before the Science, Space and Technology Committee. (12/12)

Space Foundation Names Wireless Remote Switch as Certified Space Tech (Source: Space Foundation)
The Space Foundation announces its newest Space Certification Partner, PulseSwitch Systems, LC, of Norfolk, Va., which is recognized for its licensed product, a batteryless, wireless remote switch marketed under the name Lightning Switch. The switch uses NASA-developed technology to self-power a radio frequency transmitter, sending an ID-encoded signal to a Lightning receiver. It provides portable, remote control of electrical loads at distances of up to 100 feet, or at unlimited range with optional repeaters. (12/13)

22 GOP Lawmakers (One From Florida) Named to House Science Committee (Source: Space News)
On the same day that the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing on NASA’s strategic direction, the committee’s incoming chairman announced the names of the 21 Republicans who will help him oversee the U.S. space program and other science and technology matters when the 113th Congress convenes in January.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is replacing fellow Texan Ralph Hall, who is being forced by a six-year limit on House committee chairmanships to surrender the gavel. In addition to Smith and Hall, the other Republican members of the committee will include Rep. Bill Posey of Florida's Space Coast. (12/12)

India Races China in Space for Prestige, Military Security (Source: Space Quarterly)
A surging space race between India and China is underway amidst nearly a dozen other Asian nations, like India, trying to avoid a loss of prestige or military security to China's aggressive space program. "There is definitely a space race between India and China for top regional prestige and influence," says James Clay Moltz, a professor in the U. S. Naval Postgraduate School's Dept. of National Security Affairs, Monterey, Calif.

China with seemingly no limits on its space budget or engineering talent is sailing a steady course. It is advancing across all space disciplines with no outward regard to India's space program, except for one important factor--"that India may develop retaliatory capabilities in response to China's 2007 ASAT test," said Bharath Gopalaswamy, a noted PhD analyst on India's nuclear and military space directions.

Even before China's ASAT test, the highly successful use of U. S. military space assets during the first Persian Gulf War "aroused some curiosity" within India's military services toward Indian development of its own military satellites, Gopalaswamy told Space Quarterly. There are also broader global power implications with the situation as India is more open to space cooperation with the U. S. and Russia to counter China. (12/13)

Astronauts Explore Jupiter Moon Europa in Sci-Fi Film (Source:
A team of astronauts heads to Jupiter's ice-covered moon Europa in search of alien life. If that sounds too good to be true, space geeks, that's because it is. The mission described above will take place onscreen, when the independent sci-fi film "Europa Report" hits theaters (likely sometime next year).

While "Europa Report" is fiction, it tries hard to get much of the science right, officials said. The filmmakers worked extensively with scientists at NASA and the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., to give audiences an authentic vision of what a journey to Europa might look like, according to Wayfare Entertainment, which is producing "Europa Report." (12/13)

Canada’s ExactEarth Doubles Annual Revenue (Source: Space News)
Canadian satellite maritime vessel-tracking company exactEarth Ltd. on Dec. 31 said its revenue doubled in the 12 months ending Oct. 31, to $9.8 million, and that it now delivers nearly 100 million messages on ship identification per day. exactEarth, owned by Com Dev of Canada and Hisdesat of Spain, said its backlog as of Oct. 31 stood at 13.6 million Canadian dollars. (12/13)

European Agreement Raises Prospects for Multinational Milsat System (Source: Space News)
The European Defense Agency (EDA) on Dec. 13 said its 26 member governments have agreed to “systematically” review options for the pooling and sharing of defense capacity in their upcoming procurements. In a decision that could increase the prospects of a multination next-generation military telecommunications satellite system in Europe, EDA ministers adopted an agency-proposed code of conduct that, while voluntary, nonetheless orients defense planners toward cooperative efforts. (12/13)

Only $2 Million in Clawbacks for Spaceport Should Virgin Galactic Leave (Source: Capitol Report NM)
New Mexico taxpayers have made a $209 million investment into Spaceport America but if its anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic pulled out, the state would get only a “very limited” amount of money back in financial clawback provisions, the director of the Spaceport Authority said. Virgin Galactic said last month it may leave southern New Mexico if the state legislature does not pass liability protection guarantees for  manufacturers and suppliers of private spaceflight operators such as Virgin Galactic.

Should the legislation not pass — as it has in the last two Roundhouse sessions — and Virgin made good on its threat, what kind of financial clawbacks are in place for New Mexico? “I think somewhere in the ballpark of about $1.5 to $2 million, so it’s very limited,” Christine Anderson said. “That’s the way the agreement was written was written several years ago, before my time certainly. So it’s important, this piece of legislation is really important.” (12/13)

Piper to Retain 650 Florida Workers Under Amended State Agreement (Source: Aviation Week)
Piper Aircraft is pledging to maintain an employment base of at least 650 workers under an amended agreement with the state of Florida that will enable the company to keep incentive money it received as part of its original contract with the state. Piper in 2008 agreed to keep the company in Vero Beach, Fla., after the state had provided an incentive package of up to $32 million based on certain investment and workforce guarantees.

The guarantees included the creation of about 450 new jobs by 2012, in addition to maintaining the workforce that was close to 1,000 people at the time. Piper had received an initial payment of $6.6 million from the state. At the time of the agreement, the economy was still fairly strong, and Piper had envisioned developing a single-jet aircraft. But shortly after the agreement the economy collapsed, forcing Piper to lay off hundreds of workers and defer taking additional payments. The company also subsequently shelved its single-jet project. (12/11)

Fail for NASA Over Everest Photo Blunder (Source:
The world's highest mountain should not be hard to spot, but NASA has admitted it mistook a summit in India for Mount Everest. On its website the space agency said a photo taken by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko from the International Space Station (ISS), 370 kilometers above Earth, showed Everest lightly dusted with snow.

The picture spread rapidly via Twitter and was picked up by media around the world. But Nepalis smelt a rat and voiced their suspicions on social media. Journalist Kunda Dixit, an authority on the Himalayas, tweeted: "Sorry guys, but the tall peak with the shadow in the middle is not Mt Everest." NASA confirmed it had made a mistake and removed the picture from its website. (12/13)

Astronomers Find Oldest Galaxies in Hubble Images (Source: Space Today)
Astronomers have found a population of galaxies more than 13 billion years old in a new "deep field" image set from the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxies, found in Hubble's Ultra Deep Field 2012 (UDF12) near-infrared images, date back to between 350 and 600 million years after the Big Bang.

Astronomers report that the images show the population of galaxies gradually decreases going back in time to about 450 millions years after the Big Bang, supporting models where "reionization," a reheating of cold hydrogen gas in the universe, took place gradually over the course of several hundred million years as the first galaxies formed. Astronomers used Hubble to take the UDF12 images with the telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 during August and September. (12/13)

Alaska Reclaims Missing Moon Rocks (Source: Collect Space)
Alaska's moon rocks recovered: Five tiny pieces of Tranquility Base are back home in Alaska after having gone missing almost 40 years ago. An arson's fire in 1973 served as the lead-in to a teenager-turned-reality show skipper's theft of the moon rocks, which he sued the state of Alaska to have declared legally his own. The key to the state reclaiming its Apollo 11 lunar sample display turned out to be a photo taken in the Atlasta House in 1970. (12/12)

NASA Glenn Wants to Focus on Four Core Areas (Source: Crain's Cleveland Business)
NASA Glenn Research Center aims to narrow its focus. The Cleveland center has put together a reorganization plan that, if approved by NASA headquarters, would move some employees into different departments and different buildings in an effort to help the center focus on its four core areas of expertise: power, propulsion, communications and advanced materials.

The plan would allow NASA Glenn to put more resources toward work in those four areas while also freeing up time to focus on winning business from private companies, according to outgoing center director Ramon Lugo III and deputy director Jim Free. Mr. Free will step into Mr. Lugo’s position at the end of the year. (12/12)

Are Changes at Moffet on Horizon? (Source: Mountain View Voice)
Now that the presidential election is over, there's buzz about the federal government finally making a decision about whether to get rid of Moffett Federal Airfield and its icon, Hangar One. After talking to NASA officials, General Services Administration officials and Congressional staff, longtime Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board member Lenny Siegel says that Sunnyvale and Mountain View should begin to brace themselves for the big decisions over Moffett's fate that have been looming for years.

"What I know is that something is happening, but I'm getting conflicting rumors about what is happening," Siegel said Monday. Siegel said it was possible that President Obama's administration has been waiting until after the election to accept a deal from Google's founders to restore Hangar One in exchange for a long-term lease and use of the runway for their private planes, operated by their company H211, LLC. (12/12)

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