December 16, 2012

Virginia Spaceflight Authority Releases Strategic Plan (Source: SpaceRef)
The Plan evaluates the current state of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA, or Authority), the industry landscape, the Authority's competition, and available launch forecasts and trends. Building on these items, the Plan describes the strategic objectives and key actions for VCSFA for the 2012 to 2017 period. The strategic plan is an extension of the work accomplished in the report "Governance, Organization and Competitive Landscape Review of the Authority" conducted in December 2011 and serves as a foundation for accomplishing the Commonwealth's priorities and the Authority's objectives.

While California, Florida, and Alaska offer services similar to Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) is ideal for providing equatorial access for low earth orbit for small to medium size launches on the east coast. MARS also offers easier and more economical access to the International Space Station, an important consideration for commercial space companies serving NASA for ISS resupply missions. Given these advantages, MARS is an attractive spaceport for commercial space companies. Click here. (12/15)

Virginia Spaceport to Focus on Small and Medium-Lift Rockets (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) has issued a Strategic Plan [Download PDF] that calls for the development of Wallops Island as a multi-user spaceport focused on small and medium-lift rockets to supplement existing launches and future Antares cargo flights to the International Space Station.

“The VCSFA’s location and capabilities are ideal for small and medium-lift launches,” according to the report, which covers the years 2012-17. “Although ISS resupply missions are growing, VCSFA intends to look to additional commercial launches, including the areas of defense and national security. The near-term focus is on expanding medium-lift launches as the market outlook is favorable.”

Editor's Note: The report makes no mention of plans discussed earlier to explore the potential for locating an commercial Atlas-5 launch complex at Wallops Island. This plan seemed far-fetched given the island's size, the costs that ULA would incur, and the strength of the market. (12/16)

Kazakhstan Commission on Baikonur Resumes Work After 13-Year Break (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’ Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov chairman of the Russian part of the Russia-Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Commission on Baikonur. Thus, the two countries resume a joint commission, which was established back in 1994 under the agreement on Baikonur and which was closed five years later.

The commission will study implementation of the Russia-Kazakhstan agreement of 1994 on basic principles and terms of using the Baikonur cosmodrome, of the agreement on the rent of the complex of the same year, and of other Russia-Kazakhstan agreement, as well as other joint documents. Shuvalov is ordered to confirm members of the Russian part of the Commission, by including in it representatives of ministries and authorities and to discuss with the Kazakh side how the commission would be functioning, the government’s press service reported referring to the order signed by the prime minister. (12/16)

NASA Apocalypse Video Explains Why Mayan 2012 Doomsday Won't Happen (Source: Huffington Post)
Doomsayers are awaiting Dec. 21, 2012, the day the Mayan calendar ends and the rumored Mayan apocalypse unfolds. But NASA is debunking the notion that the world will end in just a few short days. In fact, NASA is so confident we'll still be here on Dec. 22 that on Tuesday it posted a video to its official YouTube channel titled "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday." Click here. (12/13)

New CASIS Board Meets in Washington (Source: CASIS)
The newly appointed board of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), responsible for managing the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, met for the first time last week in Washington. One of their first orders of business is hiring an executive director for the organization. Click here for a video introducing the new board. (12/14)

Former Astronaut Takes Different View of NASA's Asteroid Plans (Source: Space Politics)
Former NASA Astronaut Tom Jones, an advisor to Planetary Resources who now works at the Florida-based Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) has offered his own “modest proposal” for an alternative approach for NASA that combined elements of lunar and asteroid mission. “I think what we ought to do is to take these next ten years and reorient NASA to early access to space resources, with NASA as the instrument that then demonstrates commercial potential via lunar robotic and near Earth asteroid sampling,” he said.

A key difference between his proposal and the current NASA mission is that rather than send humans out to a near Earth asteroid, NASA would instead move the asteroid to cislunar space. A study by the Keck Institute of Space Studies showed how a robotic mission could capture a 500-ton asteroid and move it into high lunar orbit. Once in lunar orbit, astronauts could then easily visit it to both study it and perhaps even work to extract resources, notably water ice and other volatiles, that would have value for other space activities.

Such a mission would have a variety of roles, from offering a stepping stone for later human exploration missions to testing techniques for planetary defense. “It’s the only way humans are going to get to an asteroid by the mid-2020s.” That mission would be part of a broader architecture that includes demonstrations of deep space exploration systems and material processing technologies on the ISS, robotic landers and rovers on the Moon, etc. Click here. (12/16)

NRC Names Members of Panel To Support Human Spaceflight Study (Source: Space Policy Online)
As the National Research Council's (NRC's) Committee on Human Spaceflight prepares to begin its deliberations on Dec. 19, the NRC has announced the members of one of the two panels that will support the committee in its work. Two panels are planned -- one with technical expertise in space exploration and another with expertise in polling. As part of the study, a national poll will be conducted to assess the nation's attitude toward human spaceflight activities. Click here.

Editor's Note: With multiple studies, hearings, and pronouncements in recent weeks, it seems like we're officially re-opening the debate on establishing long-rage goals and objectives for NASA. Wasn't this all supposed to have been settled a year ago? Wasn't this kind of continued debate proposed by the Romney campaign? (12/16)

New Officers Elected for Space Coast Chapter of National Space Club (Source: NSSFL)
Elections have concluded at the National Space Society's Space Coast Chapter. The dust has settled to reveal a slate of new and returning officers for 2013, including Laura Seward as the returning president, Edward Ellegood as the vice president, Randy Pruitt as the treasurer, Maria Sheldon as the event coordinator, and Brad Byron as the webmaster.

Among other things, the chapter will sponsor several "Space Locals" events in 2013. These events allow chapter members and the public to meet and learn from space industry leaders in an informal setting, sharing information on space research, operations, advocacy, and economic development. The chapter will kick off a membership drive (only $5 per year) in coming weeks. (12/16)

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