December 20, 2012

SpaceTEC Seeks Input on Commercial Space Training (Source: SpaceTEC)
SpaceTEC, the National Science Foundation's National Resource Center for Aerospace, sponsors a certification program for aerospace and space industry technicians. Based on Florida's Space Coast, SpaceTEC operates a national consortium composed of educators, government agency representatives, and business and industry organizations that design and implement training programs and hire technicians with SpaceTEC certifications.

If you are part of an aerospace company, SpaceTEC would appreciate your support by completing a very brief 10-question survey providing your thoughts on technician-level hiring, qualifications, training and certification. Click here. (12/20)

Mikulski to Chair Full Senate Appropriations Committee (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will become the new chair of the full Senate Appropriations Committee, the first woman to chair that committee. She got the nod after two more senior Democrats on the committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), declined. Both will stay where they are -- Leahy as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Harkin as chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Mikulski is well known in the space policy community because she chairs the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA.  She is a strong NASA supporter, especially for activities that take place at the Goddard Space Flight Center in her home state.  She has been less enthusiastic about NOAA's management of its satellite programs.

Nothing was mentioned in Mikulski's statement as to whether she will retain the subcommittee chair as well.   Inouye served both as chair of the full committee and of the defense subcommittee. The Senate Democratic Caucus still must ratify her appointment. Editor's Note: The departure of Sen. John Kerry, if he is nominated to serve as Secretary of State, could result in another shuffling of members. Kerry chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and serves on the Finance, Commerce, and Small Business Committees. (12/20)

CASIS Board of Directors Selects Chairperson (Source: CASIS)
The new Board of Directors for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, designated France Córdova, Ph.D., as the group’s Chairperson last week in Washington, D.C.
As Chair, Córdova will serve as the CASIS Board spokesperson, and will preside over future Board meetings. The meeting that took place in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, December 13, 2012, was the organization’s first official meeting of the new, permanent Board. Córdova is President Emerita of Purdue University, where she holds the position of professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. (12/20)

Moon Express Acquires Rocket City Space Pioneers GLXP Team (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Moon Express, Inc. has reached a Teaming Agreement with Dynetics for the acquisition of the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP) Google Lunar X PRIZE Team. The agreement brings the substantial space capabilities of Dynetics to the Moon Express team for the pursuit of commercial lunar missions, and will leverage and carry forward the substantial work done by RCSP supported by its visionary partners.

Those partners include: Dynetics, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Andrews Aerospace, Draper Laboratory, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Moog, Huntsville Center for Technology, and Analytical Mechanics Associates.

The agreement also allows for the transition of RCSP’s team leader, Tim Pickens, to the role of Moon Express’ chief propulsion engineer. Pickens is an award-winning rocket pioneer and was the lead propulsion designer for Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE in 2004. (12/20)

Boeing to Continue Support for Air Force Space Observation Sites (Source: SpaceRef)
Boeing will continue to provide engineering and scientific support for U.S. space situational awareness under an Innovative Research and Optical Site Support (IROSS) contract extension from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Under the 18-month, $67 million extension, Boeing Directed Energy Systems will provide engineering support, conduct research, and maintain and enhance telescope and electro-optical systems at the Starfire Optical Range in New Mexico and the Maui Space Surveillance Complex in Hawaii. (12/20)

NASA Seeks Common Upper Stage For Planetary Launches (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is seeking information from industry on a common upper-stage compatible with various launch vehicles the agency plans to use for future planetary missions. “Historically, high-energy planetary missions that require performance beyond a launch vehicle’s contracted capability have individually acquired and integrated an upper stage separate from the launch service,” the agency says in its request for information (RFI).

“This one-off approach complicates mission design and limits synergy with other programs. An upper-stage service would better support the science mission community by providing a known and common capability available for use on multiple ... launch vehicles.” Editor's Note: I don't know if it fits the criteria, but ULA has a lot of interest in a two-engine Centaur upper stage, which would substantially increase the lift capacity of its EELV rockets. (12/20)

Enterprise Being Repaired as Museum Home Reopens After Storm (Source: Collect Space)
The New York City museum home of NASA's retired space shuttle Enterprise is set to reopen to the public Friday (Dec. 21), following its closure in late October due to Hurricane Sandy and the damage that the "superstorm" caused to the facility. Visitors to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, which is located at Pier 86 on Manhattan's west side, will once again be able to board the converted World War II aircraft carrier.

Enterprise's exhibit however, won't be restored until next spring. Guests this week will be able to see the prototype space shuttle from the museum's flight deck and along the pier. Enterprise, which never flew in space, was used for a series of piloted approach and landing tests in the 1970s. The Intrepid's Space Shuttle Pavilion, which was housed inside a pressurized fabric structure, first opened in July.

Severe flooding from the tropical-cyclone-force storm and strong winds resulted in the Enterprise's climate-controlled housing coming down. As the inflated structure came down, some of its fabric got snagged on Enterprise's vertical stabilizer, which caused the top of the black and white tail to break off. (12/20)

Shiloh: Could Space Jobs Be in Volusia’s Future? (Source: West Volusia Beacon)
Some might say the glory days of the space program in Florida are dead. Long gone is the excitement over Saturn launches, the days of landing on the moon, and even the space shuttle. Now, Space Florida is lobbying federal agencies and local governments in a bid to bring two commercial-launch complexes to the Space Coast, including a spaceport in Southeast Volusia that could bring new aerospace businesses and thousands of jobs to local residents.

Space Florida is an independent special district in the State of Florida, created by state statute to foster the growth and development of a sustainable space industry. It is Florida’s space program, so to speak. For the new commercial-launch venture, Space Florida looked at property near the launch complex at Cape Canaveral, and settled on around 15,000 acres of NASA’s undeveloped property in the area of a former citrus community called Shiloh.

The land is north of Haulover Canal, right on the Volusia-Brevard line, along the Indian River. The property has been managed by Cape Canaveral Seashore and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Only 150 acres — or 1 percent of the property — would be developed into a commercial spaceport, Ketcham said. The rest would remain in a state conservation easement. NASA has already declared the property as not useful to its mission. Click here. (12/14)

Shiloh Linked to Shuttle Landing Facility in Campaign for Launch Capability (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's budget for maintaining Shuttle-era infrastructure like KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) is evaporating. Although multiple commercial and government programs have expressed interest in using the SLF, none appear willing to pick up the entire cost for SLF operations and maintenance. NASA therefore has invited expressions of interest from other organizations with ideas for using or taking over the facility.

Space Florida was among the respondents to NASA's solicitation, seeing the SLF and its surrounding airspace as providing a key capability for supporting the growth of horizontal-launch/landing space vehicle ventures, as well as UAS programs. NASA is currently considering its options after receiving multiple responses.

Meanwhile, several miles north of the SLF, Space Florida has requested 150 acres of property (called Shiloh) for one or more vertical launch pads and attendant infrastructure. The hoped-for result would be the removal of these SLF and Shiloh parcels from direct federal oversight, allowing FAA-licensed users to operate under the same federal safety regulations, but without the complications that come with having NASA and the Air Force permanently onsite providing other forms of oversight. (12/20)

Life Search: Antarctic Drilling Effort Hits Snag (Source: Huffington Post)
Under the 2-mile-thick layer of ice on a desolate, remote plain in Antarctica lies a lake that has been buried for millennia. Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey are currently camped out above that lake, engaged in an effort, years in the making, to drill down and take water samples from the lake, to see if it holds any forms of life. The plan to drill into Lake Ellsworth involves a specially designed hot water drill that would bore through the ice and down to the fresh lake water, and then send 24 titanium canisters down through the borehole to take water samples.

But the plan has hit a snag. A circuit used in the main boiler that supplies hot water to the drill has burned out twice. The team is awaiting resupply while working to understand how to prevent the problem from happening again. Martin Siegert said he hopes the team will be able to resume drilling by the end of the week and that the good news is that it has plenty of fuel to continue drilling with. Click here. (12/20)

Bolden: Don't Have to Travel Far to Asteroid to Meet President's Goal (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told a National Research Council (NRC) committee that meeting President Obama's goal of sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 does not necessarily mean they have to travel a great distance.  Although he did not raise the topic of capturing an asteroid and bringing it to the Earth-Moon vicinity as recently proposed by former astronaut Tom Jones, Bolden's interpretation of the President's directive could allow for that possibility.

President Obama announced that an asteroid would be the next destination for the U.S. human spaceflight program beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) on April 15, 2010 as an intermediate destination on the way to sending astronauts to orbit Mars in the 2030s.  The mission would allow NASA to study the effects of a long duration mission in space on astronauts for a duration greater than what astronauts experienced in the Apollo lunar program, but less than the time required to journey to Mars.

Bolden's comments were made to an NRC committee that is charged with making recommendations on the future of the U.S. human spaceflight program.  The Committee on Human Spaceflight, co-chaired by former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and Cornell space scientist Jonathan Lunine, held its first meeting today.  Bolden read a statement to the committee (the text is not yet posted on the NASA website) and then answered questions posed by committee members. (12/19)

Mojave Spaceport Gets High-Speed Fiber Internet Services (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Mojave Air and Space Port and its tenants now have access to high-speed, fiber-optic Internet and phone services, which officials see as a big draw for companies to locate to the desert test facility. Race Communications completed hooking up the spaceport to its Los Angeles data center last month, CEO Raul Alcaraz told the facility’s Board of Directors on Tuesday. The airport’s administration building and four companies already have service, and other tenants can now sign up as well, he added. (12/20)

Study Aims to Make Lightning Launch Delays Less Frequent (Source: WESH)
Lightning has been a factor in multiple launch delays at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. But are lightning rules too restrictive? A study is underway to make future launches less likely to be delayed by lightning. Click here to see the report. Editor's Note: The University of Florida has been a longtime partner with Air Force and NASA weather officials, conducting research on triggered lightning at Florida National Guard's Camp Blanding installation. (12/20)

Federal Agencies Support Santa's Global Trek (Source: SPACErePORT)
With Santa, whenever there is a potential problem, there is an ingenious solution. As the worldwide population continues to grow, Santa this year has developed new logistics to ensure the delivery of billions of presents. Explore the story this year … one present at a time. Click here to learn how the FAA's NextGen program will help.

Meanwhile, for more than 50 years NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa's flight. The tradition began in 1955 after a Sears advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." Colonel Harry Shoup had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Click here to see NORAD's Santa Track.

And at NASA, lifting off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Santa is taking advantage of technologies developed at Kennedy in the Ground Systems Operations and Development Program and the Launch Services Program. The same advancements that are propelling Santa through space will be used for NASA's next generation of deep space missions: the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Click here. (12/20)

Probe Finds ATK Rocket Tests Don't Foul Water, Soil (Source: Deseret News)
Concerns over potential groundwater or soil contamination from ATK's testing of powerful solid rocket motors used in the space shuttle program prompted a state and federal inquiry to determine if there were any harmful public health effects. The site investigation, done by the Environmental Protection Agency in tandem with the state Division of Environmental Response and Remediation, found no long-term health or environmental risks to soil or water that would come from the result of rocket motor testing. (12/19)

JSC Acceleration Center Helps Businesses Capitalize on NASA Tech (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the Houston Technology Center have officially opened the doors to the JSC Acceleration Center at the Johnson Space Center. The JSC Acceleration Center provides onsite offices to enhance collaboration for business growth and future technology development under an agreement with the Houston Technology Center (HTC).

The focus of the new center in JSC’s Bldg. 35 is to provide entrepreneurs and startup companies access to entrepreneurial and technical expertise as they explore opportunities to commercialize NASA technologies. Clients will receive help with business incubation and acceleration, and recruitment and screening from strategic partners, expert advisors and the extensive JSC space community. (12/19)

NASA Up-Sizes Some Black Holes to "Ultra-Sized" (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA already knew that black holes can be huge -- some have masses several billion times that of our sun -- but new research by the Chandra X-ray Observatory suggests some black holes may be up to 40 times bigger than that -- ultra-sized, not just super-sized, in other words. The largest black holes are at the centers of galaxies, so NASA analyzed the brightest galaxies in a sample of 18 galaxy clusters. The analysis suggested at least 10 contained "ultramassive" black holes, something scientists have only confirmed a few times. (12/19)

Mojave Air and Space Port Looking for New Board Member (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Mojave Air and Space Port’s Board of Directors has an opening to fill. Anyone living within the district who wants to serve on the five-member board has until Dec. 26 to submit a letter of interest. The board expects to fill the open seat at its Jan. 15 meeting. (12/19)

Economic Boom Fuels Africa's Dreams of Space (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Beside a coconut farm in this lush mountain town squats the signature endeavor of Ghana's Space Science and Technology Center. It is a satellite dish, rusted and infested with bees, that technicians hope to convert into a stargazing radio telescope. In May, this West African country became the latest on the continent to set up a space program, highlighting how governments here are turning to private companies and regional economic power South Africa for a lift into space.

Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda also are stepping into space—using shoestring budgets to create high-tech jobs, get satellite data on their landscapes and inspire citizens to study science. A decade ago, African governments remained too broke and space exploration prohibitively expensive. Now, amid a continental economic boom, the world's poorest continent is getting richer as space exploration is getting cheaper. Sub-Saharan Africa's economy managed 5.3% growth this year, inflating the coffers, and space ambitions, of government. (12/19)

USA Shutters Washington Office (Source: Space News)
United Space Alliance (USA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture established to operate and maintain NASA’s now-retired space shuttle fleet, has shut down its Washington lobbying operation. (12/19)

For Human Deep-Space Missions, Radiation Is Biggest Hurdle (Source:
High radiation levels beyond Earth orbit pose the biggest challenge to human exploration of deep-space destinations, experts say. With current spacecraft technology, astronauts can cruise through deep space for a maximum of one year or so before accumulating a dangerously high radiation dose, researchers say. As a result, many intriguing solar system targets remain off-limits to human exploration at the moment. (12/20)

2012: The Year in Space (Source: NBC)
Every year marks beginnings and endings, but when it comes to space exploration, 2012 ranks as a big year for both starts and stops. SpaceX opened what could be a new era for commercial spaceflight. NASA's Curiosity rover began what could turn out to be a decade-long mission on Mars. First moonwalker Neil Armstrong, arguably the world's best-known (and most private) astronaut, passed away. So did Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut. And after 30 years of service, the space shuttle fleet finally settled into museum retirement. Click here. (12/20)

The Trash We've Left on the Moon (Source: The Atlantic)
Earlier this week, two probes that had spent the past year orbiting the moon for NASA's GRAIL mission slammed into the lunar surface, destroying themselves and their communications connection to Earth. None of this was an accident: Crash-landings like this are a typical method of bringing unmanned lunar missions -- and unmanned planetary missions in general -- to a close. This means, however, that NASA's typical method of mission conclusion involves, inevitably, leaving debris strewn on planets across our solar system. And it means that the moon, in particular, currently hosts nearly 400,000 pounds of man-made material. Click here. (12/20)

Landmark Year in Private Spaceflight Development (Source: Voice of America)
With NASA's retired shuttles mothballed in museums, 2012 saw a new kind of spacecraft blaze its own path toward the International Space Station. In May, the Dragon space capsule — developed, owned and operated by California-based SpaceX — was launched from atop a Falcon-9 rocket, becoming the first private craft to dock with the ISS. Also working with NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation, which has developed the Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo craft, has a planned 2013 demonstration flight to the space station.
At Kennedy Space Center for SpaceX's second successful ISS mission in October, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said these partnerships spur innovation and benefit the U.S. space program. NASA officials have said the agency, via partnerships, is on track to launch astronauts from the United States within five years.
Presently constructing the Space Launch System, the largest rocket ever built, NASA engineers are also developing the Orion capsule, a craft designed to take astronauts 15 times farther than the International Space Station. With Orion's unmanned trial mission set for 2014, interest in NASA's next generation vehicles has been growing. (12/20)

Spaceport Sweden Plans to be Advanced ‘Astronaut’ Training Center (Source: Flight Global)
Spaceport Sweden and UK-based technology consultants Qinetiq are to work together to develop a preparation program for commercial space travellers, initially based at the Flight Physiological Center in Linköping, Sweden. The Linköping center has what it bills as among the world's most advanced dynamic flight simulators, combining a man-rated, long-arm centrifuge and flight simulator.

The simulator provides a safe and highly controllable environment in which commercial human spaceflight passengers can experience the sustained periods of increased acceleration present during launch and re-entry and allows for the precise re-creation of the complex and unique g profiles generated by future commercial space vehicles. (12/20)

NASA Will Remain Leader in Human Spaceflight (Source: LA Times)
NASA’s human spaceflight program is “alive and well,” NASA chief Charles Bolden told a committee convened to explore the space program’s future goals and direction. “Those who question whether we can still lead in space fail to understand that a nation which has achieved so many firsts never follows and never will,” Bolden told the National Research Council committee during a daylong meeting in Washington meant to help gather evidence to review the human spaceflight program. (12/19)

2013 Smart Guide: New Maps to Rein in Cosmic Inflation (Source: New Scientist)
We're about to get a better grasp of one of the biggest ideas in the universe: inflation. The first maps of the cosmos from the European Space Agency's Planck satellite are due out in early 2013. They should help us to hone descriptions of how, after the big bang, the universe grew from smaller than a proton into a vast expanse in less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second.

The early universe was a featureless soup of hot plasma that somehow grew into the dense galaxy clusters and cosmic voids we know today. On a large scale, regions far apart from each other should look very different, according to the laws of thermodynamics. But studies of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) - the first light to be released, some 300,000 years after the big bang - show that the universe still looks virtually the same in all directions. Click here. (12/20)

Sierra Nevada Engineer and Team Building Dream Chaser (Source: Denver Post)
His dad worked in the space industry, and so Todd Mosher grew up with stories about rocket ships and the moon. Given his adolescent wallpaper — astronauts — it's no shock that Todd Mosher now is building spaceships. But that doesn't make it any less cool. Mosher is the director of design and development for Dream Chaser, a proposed winged spaceflight vehicle.

If NASA selects Mosher's team — two others are in the running — then the Dream Chaser, being built in Louisville by Sierra Nevada Corp. (not the brewery), could one day transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. In addition, non-astronauts might book a seat in the Dream Chaser and experience space up close. All three companies received roughly $10 million each in NASA contracts to develop prototype spacecraft.

Mosher grew up in Southern California and Colorado, graduated from Columbine High School and then headed off to college in California, Alabama and finally the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he received a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. He has been a professor. He has worked for Lockheed Martin on a project to send astronauts to the moon again. Click here. (12/20)

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