December 23, 2012

Governor Reviewing Virginia Spaceport's Five-Year Plan (Source:
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has delivered to Gov. Bob McDonnell a five-year strategic plan required by legislation the General Assembly passed during its 2011 session. The plan evaluates the current state of the authority and describes eight strategic objectives for it to pursue during the next five years. Legislation that took effect July 1 reconstituted the space flight authority, reformed its board of directors, amended its powers and duties, and provided it additional funding.

The authority “is now poised to become one of the most useable spaceports in the United States. This strategic plan charts the path to achieving that goal, as well as the associated economic development and job creation opportunities resulting from Virginia’s position as a leader in a rapidly growing arena,” Executive Director Dale K. Nash wrote in a letter to McDonnell accompanying the plan.

The first objective, according to the plan, is to provide a framework for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s success as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s initial launch customer by developing a contract with the company “that provides an appropriate level of support for the current ISS contract and future missions,” and by understanding Orbital’s business objectives beyond that contract, “with a view to providing the necessary support and balance with requirements of a multi-user environment.” Click here. (12/23)

European Activities in Space for Better Results on the Ground (Source: Malta Independent)
The European Union operates across a wide range of policy areas, aiming to improve the daily lives of the community's 500 million citizens. One such policy area is the exploration of outer space. Whilst it may be difficult to show how citizens could be affected by the EU's activities in space, this policy actually has a direct impact on the lives of Europeans, offering a wide range of concrete benefits on the ground.

The European Union's Space Policy is a relatively young policy, having only been introduced in 2007 in cooperation with the European Space Agency. Its overall objective is to enable the EU to carry out peaceful operations in space, both for the benefit of European citizens and the economy and for the strategic purpose of ensuring that Europe can take a leading role in space-related matters through which it can compete with other international actors in this field.

Two tangible applications through which the European Union seeks to implement its ambitions in outer space are the Galileo and the Copernicus programmes. I have previously written about "Galileo", an initiative that aims to establish a global satellite system for Europe. The Copernicus Program, on the other hand, was designed to enable earth observation by means of satellites and stations on the ground. This initiative aims to gather extensive information on environmental and security-related matters and thus provide its users with reliable and free-of-charge data services. Click here. (12/22)

Does NASA Know What Its Goals Are? Think They're Achievable? (Source: Florida Today)
A couple weeks ago, the National Research Council reported “there is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program” beyond the vague concept that, someday, human beings ought to go to Mars. The nearest-term big goal outlined by the White House’s official space policy is to send human explorers to an asteroid, an idea that space employees don’t support.

Perhaps it’s no wonder. This week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden appeared before yet another human space flight review committee (this is the second such panel convened over the past four years). He gave a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Obama’s targeted mission to an asteroid. He didn’t say NASA ought not do it, but he loaded up on caveats and qualifiers. Click here. (12/23)

Cleanliness is Key for Robotic Space Explorers (Source: LA Times)
The concrete-floored room looks, at first glance, like little more than a garage. There is a red tool chest, its drawers labeled: "Hacksaws." "Allen wrenches." There are stepladders and vise grips. There is also, at one end of the room, a half-built spaceship, and everyone is wearing toe-to-fingertip protective suits. "Don't. Touch. Anything."

Bruce Jakosky says the words politely but tautly, like a protective father — which, effectively, he is. Jakosky is the principal investigator behind NASA's next mission to Mars, putting him in the vanguard of an arcane niche of science: planetary protection — the science of exploring space without messing it up.

As NASA pursues the search for life in the solar system, the cleanliness of robotic explorers is crucial to avoid contaminating other worlds. Contaminants from Earth could inadvertently kill life forms on other planets just as we discover that they exist. The decontamination of spacecraft, an obscure arm of space science, has grown in importance as NASA turned its attention to places such as Mars, Titan and Europa that have environments that are potentially conducive to life. (12/23)

Did a Disney Movie Inspire NASA's New Spacesuit? (Source: CFLnews13)
NASA is unveiling its new spacesuit destined to bring astronauts to "infinity and beyond." The new suit, bears a striking resemblance to a Toy Story character. NASA just completed testing on its prototype spacesuit that's designed to help astronauts move easier on the moon, Mars, even an asteroid. It's white and lime green and kind of looks like a famous Disney-Pixar animated character, don't you think?

We’re not sure if NASA intended it to resemble Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. This new suit, called the Z-1, is designed to be more flexible than the current spacesuit worn by astronauts. What's also different about this new suit, it's got a rear-entry design, hoping to make it easier for astronauts on spacewalking missions. Click here. (12/23)

Iran to Unveil Home-Made Satellite in February (Source: Xinhua)
Iran Space Agency (ISA) has announced that it will unveil a new home-made satellite in February, Tehran Times daily reported on Sunday. Director of ISA, Hamid Fazeli, said Saturday that a new domestically-manufactured satellite, named the Nahid, will be unveiled on Feb. 2, 2013, which is Iran's National Space Technology Day, according to the report.

"The project to complete the satellite is going well, and we hope that the satellite will be unveiled on National Space Technology Day," Fazeli said, adding that it is more likely that Fajr (Dawn) and Sharifsat satellites will be sent into space by the end of the current Iranian calendar year, which ends on March 20. The Iranian official did not elaborate on the technology and mission of the Iranian satellites. (12/23)

Iran to Launch 2 New Home-Made Satellites Soon (Source: FNA)
The head of the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) announced on Saturday that the country is preparing to put two new home-made satellites, called AUT SAT and Sharif SAT, into orbit in the near future. "The AUT SAT will be put into the 55-degree orbit after some changes (in the satellite) and will be launched by Simorq (Phoenix) carrier," Fazeli said. "We try to launch the AUT SAT before the end of this (Iranian) year (March 20)," he added.

Fazeli referred to another home-made satellite named Sharif SAT being built by the researchers at Iran's Sharif University of Technology, and said, "Sharif SAT will also be launched this year." Iran which first put a satellite into orbit in 2009, has managed to build several satellites in spite of sanctions and pressures of the US and certain European countries, dissatisfied with its progress and advancements. The country has already sent small animals into space - a rat, turtles and worms - aboard a capsule carried by its Kavoshgar-3 rocket in 2010. (12/23)

NASA Chief Scientist Abdalati Returning to University of Colorado (Source: NASA Watch)
Waleed Abdalati, NASA's chief scientist, will be leaving the agency at the end of 2012 to return to the faculty of the University of Colorado. Abdalati's service at NASA was possible through a two-year intergovernmental personnel agreement with the university. He served as the principal science adviser to Administrator Bolden and other agency leadership and has been an advocate on matters of agency science policy, programs and achievements. (12/21)

European Space Agency Files Patent for Debris Alert System (Source: Space Safety)
The Reentry Direct Broadcasting Alert System (R-DBAS) is an evolution of the Reentry Breakup Recorder (REBR) concept, often called the black box of spacecraft. But unlike the REBR, which simply downloads data via satellite link for later analysis, the R-DBAS is intended as a direct communication tool with the end user. As a spacecraft carrying R-DBAS hits the atmosphere, it relays a message with the coordinates of the falling debris area to anyone with a receiver and a display, such as a laptop or iPad , warning them of the hazard. (12/14)

International Space Station Tests Debris Avoidance (Source: Space Safety)
On December 16, the International Space Station ran a test of the Predetermined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) system. The test resulted in a 2.5 km boost of the station, the altitude needed for Friday’s upcoming crew docking. PDAM is designed to be an emergency response measure, providing boost capability as little as 140 minutes before a predicted debris impact. The system would provide an alternative to the current practice of having crew shelter in their Soyuz capsules when there is insufficient time to avoid incoming debris. (12/19)

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