December 5, 2012

SpaceX Bests Orbital Sciences in First OSP-3 Duels (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX has won the first two U.S. Air Force contracts aimed at fostering competition in the U.S. launch market over a new design proposed by Orbital Sciences. SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 v1.1 to boost NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in November 2014 and the Falcon 9 Heavy for launch of a Space Test Program satellite in September 2015, says Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, program executive officer for Air Force space programs.

Already, about $100 million has been obligated under a new Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP)-3 contract for the missions. Another $162 million is expected to be set aside in the coming days, Pawlikowski says. SpaceX “was considered the best value to the government,” she tells Aviation Week.

SpaceX’s Falcon rockets and the Antares, a new design by Orbital Sciences, have both been selected as competitors for what Pawlikoski calls “lane 2” launches under the OSP-3 contract. This means the two companies can compete for the larger satellite boosting missions to come under the contract umbrella. (12/5)

Putin Urges CIS Countries to Join Glonass (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to join Glonass, Russia's global positioning system. “This system has the capability to provide considerable benefits in the economic sphere, since it reduces cargo transportation costs on all transportation systems, and it definitely increases the safety of all types of transportation,” Putin said at a session of leaders of CIS member states. (12/5)

Rogozin Calls for Increasing Roscosmos’ Staff (Source: Itar-Tass)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin called for increasing the Federal Space Agency’s staff. “We need a strong Roscosmos, with a larger staff and with better funding so that we could hire select top-class specialists,” he said. Commenting on media reports that the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Labor Ministry have rejected Roscosmos initiative to double its staff, Rogozin said it was quite logical that the ministries did not like it. (12/5)

Data Teleportation: The Quantum Space Race (Source: Nature)
Three years ago, Jian-Wei Pan brought a bit of Star Trek to the Great Wall of China. From a site near the base of the wall in the hills north of Beijing, he and his team of physicists from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in Hefei aimed a laser at a detector on a rooftop 16 kilometres away, then used the quantum properties of the laser's photons to 'teleport' information across the intervening space1. At the time, it was a world distance record for quantum teleportation, and a major step towards the team's ultimate aim of teleporting photons to a satellite. (12/5)

SpaceX Wins Two EELV-Class Air Force Launch Contracts (Source: SpaceX)
The Air Force has awarded SpaceX two EELV-class missions for launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in 2014 and 2015. The DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) will be launched in 2014 aboard a Falcon-9 rocket. The STP-2 (Space Test Program 2) will be launched in 2015 aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket. Both missions fall under Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3), an IDIQ contract that provides new entrants to the EELV program an opportunity to demonstrate their vehicle capabilities.
The two missions will support the EELV certification process for both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in the world, is expected to take its first flight in the second half of 2013. Building on reliable flight proven architecture, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles are designed for exceptional reliability, meeting the stringent U.S. Air Force requirements for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. (12/5)

Titan, Saturn's Largest Moon, Icier than Scientists Thought (Source: SpaceRef)
Scientists have long suspected that a vast ocean of liquid water lies under the crusty exterior of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. New analysis suggests that the internally generated heat that keeps that ocean from freezing relies on the moon's interactions with Saturn and its other moons. A new analysis of topographic and gravity data from Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons, indicates that Titan's icy outer crust is twice as thick as has generally been thought. (12/5)

Suomi NPP Satellite Offers New Views of Earth, In Amazing Detail (Source: NOAA)
How does the globe look when the sun goes down? Scientists unveiled unprecedented snapshots of Earth at night. Global composite images, constructed from cloud-free nighttime images from the new NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite, were showcased at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco. The images reveal the glow of human and natural phenomena across the entire Earth in more detail than ever before. Click here. (12/5)

Disagreement Over Goals, Objectives Detrimental to NASA Planning, Budgeting (Source: SpaceRef)
Without a national consensus on strategic goals and objectives for NASA, the agency cannot be expected to establish or work toward achieving long-term priorities, says a new report from the National Research Council. In addition, there is a mismatch between the portfolio of programs and activities assigned to the agency and the budget allocated by Congress, and legislative restrictions inhibit NASA from more efficiently managing its personnel and infrastructure.

The White House should take the lead in forging a new consensus on NASA's future in order to more closely align the agency's budget and objectives and remove restrictions impeding NASA's efficient operations. The committee that authored the report was not asked to offer views on what NASA's goals, objectives, and strategy should be; rather it was tasked with recommending how these goals, objectives, and strategies might best be established and communicated. Click here. (12/5)

Coalition for Space Exploration Gets New Leadership (Source: SpaceRef)
The Coalition for Space Exploration announced veteran aerospace communicators George Torres of ATK and Mary Engola of Ball Aerospace will lead the Coalition in 2013. Torres will serve as the new chair and Engola will continue her role as the deputy chair. Each will serve a one-year term, effective January through December 2013.

Torres works as the vice president of communications for ATK's Aerospace Group. He has broad experience in communications across the aerospace industry, and previously led communications organizations at Rockwell International, Boeing, Hughes, and Aerospace Corporation. The Coalition fosters a national conversation about space exploration among the leadership of member organizations, with other space-related organizations, NASA, legislators and the general public. (12/5)

'Golden Spike' Expected to Announce Commercial Lunar Travel Starting in 2020 (Source: Huffington Post)
An organization that claims to be "over the Moon" when it comes to space travel may actually be aiming right for it. If the audible buzz of Internet rumors are to be believed, the Colorado-based Golden Spike Company is expected to announce its plans to for a commercial venture to send private clients to the moon at a Dec. 6 press conference.

"The Golden Spike Company invites you to attend a game-changing announcement about the future of commercial human space travel to the Moon," reads a copy of the invitation provided to Wired. "Executives from the company will describe the team, the mission architecture, and the business model." Click here. (12/5)

North Korea Launch - Little to Gain, Nothing to Lose (Source: LA Times)
Since North Korea  announced plans to launch a rocket this month, the threats of retaliation have been swift and global. South Korea has called the mission, ostensibly to put a satellite into orbit, “a full-frontal challenge” to regional peace and stability. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” and urged NATO allies to press the government in Pyongyang to abandon its provocative plans.

Japan has threatened to shoot down any North Korean projectiles over its air space and ordered the deployment of Patriot anti-missile defenses to Okinawa. Even allies China and Russia have made their opposition clear, with Beijing appealing for its neighbor to “exercise calmness” and Moscow “emphatically” asking the North Korean government to reconsider. (12/5)

Saturn’s Strange Moon Iapetus May Have Been Deformed by Impact (Source: WIRED)
Iapetus, one of Saturn’s weirdest moons, has an enormous equatorial mountain ridge, a spiky belt that rises 12 miles above the moon’s surface. How Iapetus built that belt – the only one of its kind ever observed – has been a persistent conundrum. Now, scientists suggest that a giant impact early in Iapetus’ history knocked the moon around, dramatically slowing its rotation rate and deforming its crust.

After 1 million years, Iapetus began to resemble the walnut-shaped satellite it is today: flatter at the poles, and with a ridge extending most of the way around its middle. Earlier ideas describing the birth of the Iapetian belt invoke tectonic activity within the moon itself, or the brief presence of an impact-produced satellite – a smaller body that wandered too close to Iapetus and was shredded, briefly forming a ring that disintegrated over the moon’s equator. Click here. (12/5)

Last Man on Moon Left Camera Behind, Regrets NASA's Fade (Source: Bloomberg)
On Dec. 14, 1972, Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan climbed from the moon’s dusty surface up the rungs of the Lunar Module ladder, entered his spacecraft and began the journey back to earth. Almost 40 years later, he still finds it strange to have been the last man on the moon. “I honestly believed it wasn’t the end but the beginning,” said Cernan, now 78.

He thought at the time: “We’re not only going back but, by the end of the century, humans will be well on their way to Mars... We cracked open the door and threw out a plum to young men and women who followed us -- many far more capable -- and they reeled in a lemon.” Click here. (12/5)

California Atlas 5 Prepares for its First NASA Launch (Source:
NASA's first Atlas 5 rocket on the West Coast underwent a practice launch day and fueling exercise on Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The United Launch Alliance booster is scheduled for blastoff in February carrying a remote sensing spacecraft known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, or LDCM.

The satellite will continue the 40-year legacy of monitoring the Earth's environment from space through the Landsat series of craft. This latest bird, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., is equipped to obtain medium-resolution multispectral digital images of the global land surface, coastal shallows and coral reefs through the Operational Land Imager and the Thermal Infrared Sensor instruments. (12/4)

NASA's Deep-Space Station Idea Lacks White House Approval (Source:
Despite speculation to the contrary, NASA's ambitious plans for a manned space station beyond the moon have not yet been cleared by the White House, a senior administration official said. Over the past year or so, NASA has been drawing up plans for a manned outpost beyond the moon's far side. The station would establish a human presence in deep space, serve as a staging ground for lunar operations and help build momentum for exploring more far-flung destinations, such as asteroids and Mars.

Word about the potential outpost has begun leaking out in press reports and from space exploration officials over the last several months, leading some experts to suspect that the White House may already be on board — and that an official announcement could be coming soon, especially since President Obama won re-election on Nov. 6. But such speculation is inaccurate, said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. NASA has not cleared the EM-L2 outpost with the White House, and the space agency has not requested funding for it in the current fiscal year or the subsequent one. (12/4)

Next Landsat Mission Prepares For Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft is in thermal vacuum testing at prime contractor Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Gilbert, Ariz., factory, and on track for a timely launch. The 3,085-kg (6,800-lb.) spacecraft—built around Orbital's LEOStar-3 bus—has a design life of five years, but will carry enough fuel to keep it functioning for 10. Ball Aerospace built its Operational Land Imager to collect data in the visible, near-infrared, short-wavelength infrared and panchromatic bands.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center built the spacecraft's Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) using the advanced Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector (QWIP) technology it developed. The TIRS is designed to collect data in two more spectral bands previously covered by a single band on earlier Landsats. (12/3)

Even Planets With Thin Atmospheres Could Host Life (Source: WIRED)
Scientists have grown bacteria in a very low-atmospheric-pressure environment, similar to the surface of Mars. When searching for life in the universe, it makes sense to look for conditions roughly similar to our own planet. We have only one example of life, and it happens to exist on an Earth-sized planet with water and a thick atmosphere. Previous studies have shown that microbes were unable to grow when the atmospheric pressure was too low, but a new experiment seems to contradict this finding. (12/5)

Quiet Texan to Head Science Committee (Source: Nature)
Science advocates are cautiously hopeful after Lamar Smith, a quiet Texan who is known to be a strong supporter of US innovation, was named as the next chair of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in the US House of Representatives. Republican congressional leaders confirmed on 28 November that, in January, Smith will replace Ralph Hall, another Texas Republican, who is stepping down because of a party rule that limits a ranking member’s tenure on a House committee to six years.

Smith will become the gatekeeper for much of the science-related legislation that reaches the House floor during the next Congress. Although successful House bills must also pass the Senate before becoming law, Smith — who has served on the committee for 26 years — will be “a key player in setting the agenda”, says Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute in Washington DC. (12/4)

Senate Approves DOD Spending Bill for $650 Billion (Source: Defense News)
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a Pentagon budget of $650 billion, including authorizations for military spending of $525.3 billion and $88.5 billion in spending for ongoing wars. A House-Senate conference committee has convened to piece together the final legislation. Lawmakers to craft language for an amendment focused on funding a GOP-proposed East Coast missile shield, meaning a House-Senate conference committee will decide what to do about a House-passed provision to establish such a system.

The White House is threatening to veto the bill over changes made on the floor to terrorist detainee procedures that would prohibit the Defense Department from spending any funds to transfer prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison to the United States. A senior House Armed Services Committee aide said members of the Conference committee are prepared to quickly begin negotiations and send a final version to the president by the end of the month. Both chambers are expected to adjourn around Dec. 24. (12/4)

CSS-Dynamac to Conduct Research on Space Station (Source: SpaceTEC)
Space Florida, Florida’s spaceport authority and aerospace economic development organization, and NanoRacks, LLC, have announced CSS-Dynamac as a winner in the Space Florida 2012 International Space Station (ISS) Research Competition. As one of eight winning proposals from the international competition, CSS-Dynamac will receive research payload transportation to the ISS via an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Launch is currently slated for December 2013. (12/3)

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