December 17, 2012

Kennedy Space Center Operations Support Contract Awarded (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
NASA on Monday awarded its test and operations support contract to Jacobs Technology Inc. of Tennessee. With a maximum potential value of $1.37 billion, Jacobs will provide overall management and implementation of ground system capabilities, flight hardware processing and launch operations at Kennedy Space Center.

These tasks will support the International Space Station, ground systems development and operations, and the space launch system, Orion and launch services programs. The contract begins on March 1, 2013, and has a one-year, seven-month base period with options to extend the work through Sept. 30, 2022. Subcontractors include Engineering Research & Consulting Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., and Aerodyne Industries LLC of Oldsmar, Fla. (12/17)

Exploding Star Missing From Formation of Solar System (Source: UChicago)
A new study published by University of Chicago researchers challenges the notion that the force of an exploding star prompted the formation of the solar system. Researchers found the radioactive isotope iron 60 — the telltale sign of an exploding star-—low in abundance and well mixed in solar system material. As cosmochemists, they look for remnants of stellar explosions in meteorites to help determine the conditions under which the solar system formed.

Some remnants are radioactive isotopes: unstable, energetic atoms that decay over time. Scientists in the past decade have found high amounts of the radioactive isotope iron 60 in early solar system materials. “If you have iron 60 in high abundance in the solar system, that’s a ‘smoking gun’—evidence for the presence of a supernova,” said Dauphas, professor in geophysical sciences. (12/17)

KSC Visitor Complex to Open Dec. 25 for the First Time (Source: KSCVC)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is celebrating the holidays by opening to guests on Christmas Day for the first time in 45 years, and offering a holiday gift to visitors: one child age 11 and under free with the purchase of a paid adult admission Dec. 17 through Jan. 7. Guests can enjoy the holiday sights and sounds of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s second annual “Holidays in Space” now through Jan. 1.

The Visitor Complex is adorned with a stunning array of holiday decorations and features daily visits and storytelling with Santa and Mrs. Claus through Dec. 24, as well as heartwarming performances of favorite holiday songs by strolling carolers. As an international ensemble of astronauts celebrate the holidays 225 miles above on the International Space Station (ISS),

Visitor Complex guests can learn about the holiday traditions of each of the ISS partner countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. To take advantage of the free child with paid adult admission special, please mention the offer at the front gate ticket plaza when purchasing tickets. The offer is not available for advance purchase. For more information, visit or call 877-313-2610. (12/17)

Florida Space Industry to Visit Capitol on March 6 (Source: Space Florida)
Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 6, 2013, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. This year’s event is critical, as the state’s space industry continues to expand and change to face the dynamic international marketplace.

In addition to more traditional space-related industries like space launches, ground and payload processing, and satellite programs, industries with less traditional ties to space – i.e. clean energy, environmental monitoring, cyber security and life sciences/pharma – will also serve as key contributors to Florida’s near-term space economy.

During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members, as well as the lieutenant governor, to discuss these growing areas of the state’s $8 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead. (12/17)

What's the Purpose of a 21st Century Space Agency? (Source: Space Review)
Over the last few weeks, organizations, committees, and individuals have offered their views about what NASA's strategic direction should be. Jeff Foust reports that there's broad dissatisfaction with the agency's current direction, but little consensus on how differently the space agency should be oriented. Visit to view the article. (12/17)

History's Rhymes (Source: Space Review)
A recent conference about the fifty-year history of NASA's planetary exploration program became something of a forum to deliberate and worry about that program's future. Dwayne Day argues that looking back at that history shows how the program has evolved, and for the better. Visit to view the article. (12/17)

Addressing the Liability Challenges of Space Debris (Source: Space Review)
Everyone agrees that orbital debris is a major issue, but proposals to try and clean up debris can run into legal obstacles. In the second part of his examination of the topic, Michael Listner reviews the liability issues associated with any space debris remediation effort and proposes a way to mitigate those problems. Visit to view the article. (12/17)

Lockheed Poised for $2.6 Billion U.S. Satellite Contract (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed Martin is expected to receive a military satellite contract from the U.S. Air Force by Dec. 31 that may be valued at almost $2.6 billion, according to the service and the company. The contract would cover the purchase of two space vehicles, the final installment in a six-satellite constellation of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications program. The contract would require Lockheed to share the cost of overruns or material failures. Contracts for the previous four satellites were cost-plus types that required the Air Force to foot the entire bill. (12/17)

Residents Urge New Mexico Lawmakers to Pass Liability Bill (Source: KFOX)
Southern New Mexicans are worried Virgin Galactic may drop out from involvement with Spaceport America, possibly wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer money. It all has to do with a hold harmless clause, which offers legal protection to companies against liability for injuries or damages. Virgin Galactic, run by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, said without that protection, the company may leave New Mexico altogether. "Business owners like myself are counting on this," Broadway Florist owner Jeff Barbour said. (12/17)

Kiruna Braces for Take-Off in Race Into Space (Source: The Local)
Sweden's small Arctic town of Kiruna has a surprisingly international airport with regular flights to London and Tokyo, but it has even bigger plans: to offer commercial space flights. Spaceport Sweden, a company founded in 2007, hopes to be able to provide the first flights within a decade from Kiruna's airport.

"We're working on establishing commercial flights from Sweden to space for tourism and research, and to create a launching pad at the airport," explained the company's enthusiastic director, Karin Nilsdotter, seated in her office at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF).

The idea is that space tourists would take off for a maximum two-hour trip into space aboard futuristic spacecraft currently undergoing testing, which resemble a cross between an airplane and a space shuttle and which can carry between one and six passengers. The sub-orbital flights will send passengers 100 kilometres above Earth and allow them to experience five minutes of weightlessness. (12/17)

Space Research: Journeys Into the Unknown (Source: The Guardian)
It's 50 years since humankind began an adventure that has been marked by spectacular failure and astonishing success. Two space probes on Monday ended a lunar mission by crashing into the moon. The impacts conclude a few days of jubilee celebrations, marking 50 years since humankind began to explore the solar system. On 14 December 1962, a NASA spacecraft called Mariner-2 sped past Venus with radar instruments that confirmed that the cool cloud cover of Venus concealed a surface hot enough to melt lead. It was the first ever visit to another planet.

Since then, 12 men have walked on the moon, and robot spacecraft have colonised Mars. There have been sustained US, European and Russian missions to Jupiter and its moons, to Saturn, Titan, Venus and Mercury. Spacecraft have met asteroids, smashed into comets, and orbited the sun. Two missions have passed past the distant outer planets and one of them – Voyager 2 – is right now crossing a strange boundary that defines the beginning of interstellar space. Click here. (12/17)

North Korean Satellite Tumbling and Most Likely Dead, Astronomers Say (Source: New York Times)
The North Korean satellite launched into space last week is out of control and most likely dead, astronomers reported Monday. The apparent failure will not cause the spacecraft to fall quickly back to earth but represents a major setback in Pyongyang’s bid to portray the launching as a patriotic and technological success.

“It’s tumbling and we haven’t picked up any transmissions,” said Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks global rocket launchings and space activity. “Those two things are most consistent with the satellite being entirely inactive at this point.” North Korea’s state-run news media said nothing about the satellite’s dysfunction, focusing instead on the somber one-year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il, the longtime leader.

State media has been describing the satellite launching as a triumphal achievement of the young leader, done in the face of worldwide criticism and United Nations sanctions on the North’s ballistic missile program. The satellite, said to be about the size of a washing machine, reportedly carries an onboard camera to observe the earth. That mission requires the spacecraft’s orbit to be rock-steady. (12/17)

Pennsylvania Welder Takes Giant Leap for Womankind (Source: Cumberlink)
One Perry County woman’s welding skills will help make colonizing Mars a reality someday. SpaceX, a rocket and spacecraft design company based in Los Angeles, hired Liverpool native Molly Soule to help weld together vehicles capable of inter-planetary travel — enabling future generations the opportunity to live on Mars. “I’ve always been really fascinated with aerospace,” Soule said. “And SpaceX’s main mission is to occupy Mars and to make it affordable to have regular people live there.”

But it wasn’t space travel that encouraged Soule, 20, to pursue welding. It was motorcycles. “My fascination with motorcycles and cars really got me pumped on working with my hands,” Soule said. “I thought welding would be great a way to get involved with stuff like that.” That passion, she says, led her into Keith Hammond’s welding shop at Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Tech School three years ago. Hammond says Soule, one of two women in the class, not only impressed, but she also dominated. (12/17)

NASA's GRAIL Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride (Source: NASA)
NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team. Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon's north pole.

The formation-flying duo hit the lunar surface as planned at 5:28 p.m. EST and 5:29 p.m. EST at a speed of 3,760 mph. The location of the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5-mile-tall mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt. (12/17)

Soyuz Spacecraft Readied For Launch To ISS (Source: Huffington Post)
A Soyuz spacecraft atop a towering rocket was placed into launch position Monday at Russia's manned-space facility in the freezing steppes of Kazakhstan ahead of a five-month mission for three astronauts to the International Space Station. The craft was rolled out of its hangar on a flatbed train at exactly 7 a.m. in strict accordance with tradition and crawled for two hours at a walking pace to the launch pad. Colleagues, friends and relatives of the astronauts withstood temperatures as low as minus-30 C (minus-22 F), worsened by wind, to watch the procedure. (12/17)

10th Annual Dark Sky Festival Planned in Central Florida's Harmony (Source: SPACErePORT)
The purpose of the Feb. 2 Dark Sky Festival at Harmony is to expose the general public to the marvels of astronomy and the importance of protecting dark skies - not just for astronomy purposes, but also for the values that darkness provides to area wildlife. Our entire family-friendly festival is held outdoors in low light conditions on the streets, sidewalks and park located in Harmony Town Square.

Due to Harmony's efforts and the support of the County Commissioners, an ordinance now requires new lighting in the County to be protective of dark skies. In a county that includes portions of Walt Disney World and has extensive brightly lit tourist commercial uses, this was a significant event in itself. In addition, all County facilities were retrofitted to better protect the night sky. Click here. (12/17)

Do We Really Need So Many Satellites? (Source: Space Safety)
While the international debate about space debris mitigation is getting ever more intense, one might wonder whether all the cubesats, constellations, or communication satellites newly launched or planned are really needed. Are all the existing capacities necessary and fully utilized? New concerns might arise after the revelations, made by the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) representative Cindy Moran at the Global Milsatcom Conference.

According to Moran, out of the $ 1 billion commercial satellite capacity purchased by the U.S. Government every year, only 3-5 % on average is used on a daily basis. “It’s like buying a Smartphone, with a contract, and then never turning it on!” said Moran, the director of network services at DISA. Especially the American tax payers probably won’t be particularly happy upon hearing such news. Click here. (12/12)

Introducing Kerbal Space Program! (Source: Kerbal Space Program)
KSP is a game where the players create and manage their own space program. Build spacecraft, fly them, and try to help the Kerbals to fulfill their ultimate mission of conquering space. The game is currently under heavy development. This means the game will be improved on a regular basis, so be sure to check back for new updates. Right now, KSP is in Sandbox Complete state, but we want you to try it out and have fun with it. The first versions are free to download and play, and will remain so forever. Click here. (12/15)

Proton Failure Confirms Need To Fully Review Breeze-M Upper Stage (Source: Space News)
The Dec. 9 failure of the Breeze-M upper stage of Russia’s Proton rocket, the third in 16 months, bears little resemblance to the other two failures and will reinforce a decision by Proton’s manufacturer to perform a top-to-bottom assessment of Breeze-M. (12/14)

VAB Integration Between SLS and Orion Outlined (Source:
NASA’s Spacecraft and Payload Integration Office (SPIO) has outlined the complex process of integrating Orion on to the Space Launch System (SLS) stack during processing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The integration plan will be first put into action ahead of the opening SLS mission in 2017. Click here. (12/17)

Russian Officials Not Keen on Turning Over Baikonur to Kazakhstan (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It looks as if Kazakhstan could have a very long wait before it can take control of the Baikonur Cosmodrome and its adjoining city. A Kazakh proposal to gradually end the long-term lease that Russia holds on Baikonur is getting a chilly reception in Moscow. Kazkosmos Head Talgat Musabayev told Parliament last week that he wanted to end the lease early, with a gradual transfer of authority to Kazakhstan.

Russia leases the Soviet-era spaceport from Kazakhstan for $115 million per year. The city of Baikonur is treated like a Russian city, with officials in Moscow appointing the mayor and funding its municipal budget. While transfer of Baikonur appears unlikely, Russia and Kazakhstan have revived a joint commission to review the matter. The commission was first established in 1994 but was disbanded five years later. (12/17)

Space Coast School's Study Snags Spot on ISS (Source: Florida Today)
An experiment designed by West Shore Jr./Sr. High students will be performed aboard the International Space Station this spring — and could help further the understanding of Lou Gehrig's Disease. Students were inspired to research glutamate, which does not get broken down in ALS patients, after a beloved teacher and cross country coach was diagnosed with the degenerative disease last school year.

“I was devastated when I heard the news,” senior Luke Redito said of his former coach, Jason Whitworth. “It’s hard to see someone so active going to someone who can barely move his arms.” In ALS patients, glutamate builds up to toxic levels — causing neurons to die and patients to lose control of their muscles. Students, with the help of science teacher Amy McCormick, decided to study the enzymatic breakdown of glutamate in microgravity. They hypothesize that it will break down more effectively in space than here on earth. (12/17)

Smallsats on the Rise (Source: Space Quarterly)
Once upon a time, every satellite was a small satellite. At the dawn of the Space Age, the limitations of the rockets then available put a severe constraint on the mass of satellites: Sputnik 1 weighed in at 83 kilograms and Explorer 1, America's first satellite, was just 14 kilograms. As rockets became more powerful, though, satellites got bigger, as the government and commercial users of those satellites sought to increase their capabilities. Today, for example, a commercial communications satellite can weight over six tons.

Bigger, though, is not always better. A larger satellite can, for example, carry better cameras for observing the Earth or more powerful transmitters for relaying communications to users on the ground. However, that larger satellite can be more complex to develop, cost more, and take longer to build, with no guarantee that it will work as intended once in space. A modern-day communications satellite can take three years to build at cost of up to several hundred million dollars, limiting its customer base to a handful of large companies and government agencies. Click here. (12/17)

United Technologies Says its Growth Will slow Next Year (Source: Bloomberg)
Despite the growth-enhancing purchase of Goodrich, United Technologies will see lower-than-expected revenue in the new year as it confronts what CEO Louis ChĂȘnevert called "challenges in the economy," the company said. The company forecasts $5.85 to $6.15 in earnings per share, while analysts on average expect $6.13 per share, and revenue that tops out at $65 billion, while analysts forecast $66.2 billion. (12/14)

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